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RICE UNIVERSITY

Magical Movements ('phrul 'khor): Ancient Yogic Practices in the Bon Religion and
Contemporary Medical Perspectives.

by

Marco Alejandro Chaoul

A THESIS SUBMITTED
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE

Doctor of Philosophy

APPROVED, THESIS COMMITTEE:

a (. /cCLr
Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor
Professor and Chair
Reli7,'
ou S, tUdi:s
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William B. Parsons, Associate Professor
Religious Studies '
~:?;,/'/
ith, George and Nancy Rupp

D vid F. Germano, Associate Professor


Religious Studies, University of Virginia

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MAY 2006
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ABSTRACT

Magical Movements Cphrul 'khor): Ancient Yogic Practices in the Bon Religion

and Contemporary Medical Perspectives

by

Marco Alejandro Chaoul

Magical movement is a distinctive Tibetan practice of physical yoga in

which breath and concentration of the mind are integrated as crucial components

in conjunction with particular body movements. Present in all five spiritual

traditions of Tibet-in some more prevalent than others--it has been part of their

spiritual training since at least the tenth century C.E.

Focusing on the magical movement from the ancient Bon tradition's Oral

Transmission of Zhang Zhung and its contemporary representatives and lineage-

holders, this dissertation will include textual translation and analysis as well as

ethnographical research reporting how it is used in Bon lay settings and

monastic curricula today. In particular I will use a commentary by the famous

Bonpo scholar and meditator Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, who allegedly attained the

rainbow body in 1934 (a sign, in the tradition, of the highest contemplative state).

He was also part of the non-sectarian (ris med) Tibetan movement of his time.

Although this aspect does not transpire in his Commentary, I feel that Shardza's

example is present as an inspiration to the spirit in which I relate to the context of

the practice and material contained in his text.


Examining the use of the subtle body in magical movement and the

understanding of "magic" in that context, I propose that here magic can have the

external meaning of magic, the internal meaning of medicine and the most

internal or secret meaning of mysticism. Thus, these magical movements provide

the yogin or practitioner an opportunity to break through or go beyond the

limitations of the body and to bring forth the mystical experiences together with

the magical and healing aspects.

Finally, tracing the migration of this practice to the West, both in dharma

or Buddhist centers and the contemporary Western medical settings, I report

some of the benefits of using these mind-body techniques as part of a CIM

(Complementary and Integrative Medicine) treatment for people with cancer.

This may allow magical movement to participate in a larger dialogue, one that

extends the conversation to the fields medical humanity and integrative

medicine, among others.


Attempting contemplative practices without clear understanding of the body ...
is like trying to milk an animal by tugging at its horns. 1

1 Drapa Gyaltsen (Crags pa rgyal mtshan), an eminent master from the Sakya School, in Frances M.
Garret, "Narratives of embryology: becoming human in Tibetan literature," Ph. D. dissertation,
Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1994, p. 56.
Preface and Acknowledgements
My interest in the Bon2 magical movement practices began during a trip to

Nepal in 1993. Staying at the Bonpo monastery of Tritan Norbutse (Khri brtan nor

bu rtse), I was able to observe, and later learn, these movements under the

guidance of Tibetan lamas who followed the teachings of the Oral Transmission of

Zhang Zhung (Zhang zhung snyan rgyud, hereafter ZZ Oral Transmission), which

are central to this study. In 1994, under the guidance of the Tibetan lama and

scholar Geshe (dge shes) Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, who had recently moved to

the U.S.A., I studied and started translating a well-known commentary on the ZZ

Oral Transmission's magical movements, written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (d.

1934).3

The Indo-Tibetan program at The University of Virginia gave me my first

training in Tibetan language, classical systems of Buddhist philosophy, and the

historical context that I needed for this task. However, my M.A. thesis was on the

severing ritual (gcodV so I could not give focused attention to this magical

movement text. In 1996, I continued my academic studies at Rice University,

under the guidance of Dr. Anne C. Klein. A year later, I took a research trip to

2 Bon is considered the ancient spiritual tradition of Tibet. More on Bon will be explained as the
topic of this dissertation unravels.
3 Gyaltsen, Shardza T. Byang zab nam mkha' mdzod chen las Snyan rgyud rtsa rlung 'phrul 'khor In:

NAM MKHA MDZOD Vol. I-III, ed. by Sonam N, Gyaltsen PLS, Gyatso K, Tibetan Bonpo
Monastic Centre: New Thobgyal, 1974, pp. 321-346.
4 "Tracing the origins of cho (gcod) in the Bon tradition: a dialogic approach cutting through

sectarian boundaries." M.A. Thesis, The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 1999.
VI

Nepal and Tibet under the auspices of a fellowship from the Rocky Foundation

for Buddhist Studies. The original intent of my trip was to investigate the

possibility of a dissertation on pilgrimage. However, I quickly realized that

traveling to pilgrimage sites in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, where the

masters of the ZZ Oral Transmission lived and practiced, was burdened with

political obstacles. Upon my return to Nepal, and then back to the U.S.A., I

understood that I had to re-direct my research to the inner landscapes of the

subtle body. When I told Professor Klein, her face brightened, and we both

laughed as we had failed to see the obvious. The topic was there all along: 'phrul

'khor, magical movement.

Along the long road to finishing this project, many people have helped

me. Certainly, it would have been totally impossible to do if it were not for the

teachers and protectors of these teachings, passed on both in written and oral

forms. Especially, I would like to thank the Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpa'i

Nyima, Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the Menri Ponlob Thinley Nyima,

Khenpo Nyima Wangyal, Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung, and last, and certainly not

least, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. There are no words to express how extremely

grateful I am to all of them for such precious gifts, and I hope that this

dissertation becomes a viable medium to share some of those benefits.

Many other people were also crucial in this long and winding road. I

would like to thank Anne Klein, Edith Wyschogrod, William Parsons, Richard
vii

Smith, and Jeffrey Kripal from Rice University and David Germano from The

University of Virginia, who served as readers and advisors, helping me polish

my dissertation in many ways. All the tarnish left is mine.

I would also like to thank Lorenzo Cohen from The University of Houston

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, who was vital in my work of applying these

practices with cancer patients in a clinical research environment and helped me

include them in this dissertation. I am grateful to Steve Lewis, Jeffrey Kripat and

Gary Wiht who played an important role in helping me finish what seemed like

an endless project. And a special thanks goes to Deb Blakely, who came into this

process at the precise moment I needed her, to help me refine my English (a

second language for me after my native Spanish). Her help and Simone Rieck's,

her assistant, were invaluable.

I am very grateful to my family: parents, sister, children and in-laws, for

their faithful support. And of course the biggest THANK YOU goes to my wife,

Erika De la Garza. Her loyal support and understanding were unsurpassable.

And so, in case I do not get you the t-shirt I will say it here: "you have survived

your husband's dissertation.//


viii

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Moving into the Magic

I. Overview 1

II. Historical Context: The Bon Religion 5

III. Defining Magical Movement 16


A. Mind-Energy-Body 21
B. Origin of Magical Movement from the ZZ Oral Transmission 29
C. Magical Movement in Western Translations 30
D. Importance of Orality 31

IV. Practice and Practical Applications of Magical Movement 33

Chapter 2. Understanding Bodies 40

I. Theoretical Framework 40
A. Asceticism and the Body 41

II. A Brief History of Yoga and Tantra 44


A. Indian Yoga 51
B. Mind-Energy-Body in Tibet 53
C. Buddha Nature 57

III. The Landscapes of the Subtle Dimension(s) 58


A. Elements of the Subtle Dimension(s) 64
1. Channels 64
2. Energetic Centers 67
3. Vital Breath Currents 69

B. Inner Landscapes: Charting the Mart1ala 71


C. Vajra Hermeneutics 74
D. Mahayana Ethics 75
E. Mart1alas as Buddha Dimensions 77
ix

IV. The Yogi's Dynamism 79


A. Ma:r:t<;iala-Dynamics 83
B. Moving the Gears 83
C. Radiating Ma:r:t<;ialas 87

Chapter 3.
Texts and Lamas: Interweaving Textual and Oral Wisdom 93
O. ZZ Oral Transmission Text(s) and Interpretations 97
A. Preparation: Channels, Vital Breath Currents
and Magical Movement 98
I. Cycle 1: Foundational Magical Movement Cycle 102
A. The Foundational Magical Movement Set 104
i. Purification of the Head 105
• About Concluding with Ha and Phat 106
ii-v. Purification of the Legs, Arms, Torso, and Lower Body 108
ii. Purification of the Legs 109
• Breathing 109
iii. Purification of the Arms 110
iv. Purification of the Upper Torso 111
v. Purification of the Lower Body 112

A1. Benefits 112

II. Cycle 2: Root Magical Movement Cycle 115


A. Root Magical Movement Set 116
i. Striking the Athlete's Hammer to Overcome Anger 117
ii. The Skylight of Primordial Wisdom
that Overcomes Mental Fogginess 118
iii. Rolling the Four [Limbs like] Wheels, to Overcome Pride 119
iv. Loosening the Corner Knot to Overcome Attachment 119
v. Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel to Overcome Jealousy 120
vi. The Stance of a Tigress' Leap to Overcome
Drowsiness and Agitation 120

AI. Benefits 121


• Benefits in Quintessential Instructions 122
i. Striking the Athlete's Hammer 123
ii. The Skylight of Primordial Wisdom 124
iii. Rolling the Four Limbs Like A Wheel 125
iv. Loosening the Corner Knot 126
v. Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel 127
vi. Stance of a Tigress' Leap 127
x

B. Root Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles 129


i. Duck Drinking Water 130
ii. Wild Yak Butting Sideways 131
iii. Female Donkey [reclining] to Sleep 132
iv. Holding the Breath Like a Sparrow-Hawk 133
v. Rolling Up the Limits of the Four Continents 134
vi. Extending the Limits of the Four Continents 135

B1. Benefits 136

III. Cycle 3: Branch Magical Movement Cycle 138


A. Main Branches Set 138
i. Natural Descent of the Four Elements 139
ii. Peacock Drinking Water 139
iii. Collecting the Four Stalks 140
iv. Rolling the Four Upper and Lower 141
v. Striking the Four Knots 142

A 1. Benefits 143

B. Branch Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles 144


i. Great Garuda Flapping its Wings 145
ii. Peacock Shaking Water 145
iii. Collecting the Four Limbs Clearing Away the Limitations 146
iv. One-Sided Gallop of the Antelope 146
v. One-Sided Pulse of the Sha ri Deer 147

B1. Benefits 148

IV. Cycle 4: Special Magical Movement Cycle 150


A. Special Magical Movement Clearing Set that Clears Away
Individual Obstacles & General Obstacles Sets 150
i. Clearing Away [obstacles] from the Head 151
ii. Swinging the Binding Chains of the Torso 152
iii. Grasping [like] the Raven's Claws, [clearing away
the obstacles of] the Arms 153
iv. Adamantine Self-Rotation of the Stomach 154
v. Camel's Fighting Stance 154
xi

A 1. Benefits 155

B. Special Magical Movement Set that Clears Away


Common Obstacles 157
i. Stirring the Depths of the Ocean 158
ii. Freeing the Nine Knots 158
iii. Training and Freeing the Channels 159

B1. Benefits 162

iv. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk 164


a. First Part 165
b. Second Part 166
c. Third Part 167

B2. Benefits 168

v. Bouncing Jewel 171

B3. Benefits 173

V. Concluding Section: Colophon to the Text(s) 175

Chapter 4: Moving into the Twentieth Century 184


I. Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen and Magical Movement 186
A. Magical Movement Curricula and Practice 188
II. Magical Movement Reaches to the West 195
A. Ligmincha Trul khor Training Course 198
III. From Dharma to Medicine 200
A. A CIM Application with Cancer Patients 200
i. The Study 201
ii. Results 202
IV. Looking Into the Future 204

Chapter 5: Let the Magic Continue 207

Appendix Section 215


Appendix I
Annotated Bibliographical Sources 216
I. Tibetan Sources 216
II. Magical Movement in Western Translations 217
xii

III. Scientific Studies on Mind-Body Practices 219


Brief List of Scientific Studies of Asian Mind-Body Practices 220

Appendix II
I. The Three Channels 221
II. Channels-Breaths Correlation Chart 222
III. The Nine Kinds of Vital Breath Currents 223

Appendix III
1. Translation: Shardza' s Commentary 224
II. Preparatory Breaths Posture 253
III. Exhalation Posture 254
IV. Correlations of Root Magical Movement Set 255
V. Rolling The Four Limbs Like a Wheel 256
VI. Female Donkey Reclining to Sleep 257
VII. Extending the Limits of the Four Continents 258
VIII. Correlations of both Root Magical Movement Sets 259
IX. Tsakli of the ZZ Oral Transmission masters 260
X. Tibetan Text: Shardza's Commentary 262

Appendix IV
I. Cancer Journal article 271

Bibliography 279
1

Chapter 1. Moving into the Magic

I. Overview

Tibetan religious traditions have employed "magical movements" ('phrul

'khor) as part of their spiritual training since at least the tenth century CE.l

Contemporary Tibetans refer to them as yoga or yogic practices,2 and in the West

they are sometimes also referred to as yoga. Particularly in the complementary

and integrative medicine (ClM) field, however, they are considered a "mind-

body" technique.

Magical movement is a distinctive Tibetan practice of physical yoga in

which breath and concentration of the mind are integrated as crucial components

in conjunction with particular body movements. Although magical movement is

1 The religions of Tibet include Buddhism as well as Bon. This is important to this dissertation,
and it is an issue that I will expand upon below, since the main texts I will be working with come
from the Bon tradition (see Giuseppe Tucci, The Religions of Tibet, Tr. by Geoffrey Samuel,
Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980). Following His Holiness the Dalai
Lama and others, I will consider that the Tibetan religious traditions include the native Bon
religion and the four sub-traditions of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingma (rnying ma), Kagyu (bka'
brgyud), Sakya (sa skya) and Gelug (dge lugs).
2 We will see how Namkhai Norbu uses its Sanskrit equivalence, Yantra yoga, and many lamas
and Tibetans in general describe magical movement as a form of "yoga." I believe this is related
to the fact that, although the term "yoga" is clearly of Indian origin, its use has been adopted to
encompass practices from various other traditions, including mind-body practices of Tibet and
China (see, for example, the description of "Taoist yoga" in Paper, Jordan & 1. Thompson, The
Chinese Way in Religion, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company (LT.P.), 1998, pp. 89-114).
As Eliade states:
side by side with this 'classic' Yoga, there are countless forms of 'popular,' non-
systematic yoga; there are also non-Brahmanic yogas (Buddhist, Jainist); above
all, there are yogas whose structures are 'magical,' 'mystical,' and so on.
(Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958
(rp.1990). In the next chapter, I will amplify on Elaide's presentation of yoga as well as on the
concepts of yoga as magical and as mystical.
2

found in all five Tibetan spiritual traditions, it is most prevalent in the Kagyu

(bka' brgyud), Nyingma (rnying rna) and Bon. 3 Despite some claims in favor of

roots in Indian esoteric Buddhism, its history is yet to be written. 4 Contemporary

Tibetan religious leaders and scholars describe magical movement practices as

3 Tsongkhapa (Tsong kha pa), the founder of the Gelug (dge lugs) tradition, wrote an important
commentary on the famous Naro'i chos drug "Six Doctrines or Yogas of Naropa" from the Kagyu
tradition, which includes magical movements as part of the yoga of inner heat or gtum mo.
Tsongkhapa's commentary is called A Book of Three Inspirations: A Treatise on the Stages of Training
in the Profound Path of Naro's Six Dharmas (Zab lam na ro'i chos drug gi sgo nas 'khrid pa'i rim pa yid
ches gsum ldan zhes bya ba), and according to Glenn Mullin, who has done extensive work on the
Six Yogas of Naropa tradition, the Gelug school "received its transmission of the Six Yo gas
primarily from the Zhalu (Sakya [sa skya]) school" (Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa, Tr., ed.,
and introduced by, Glenn H. Mullin, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publication, 1997, p. 14). This leads
me to believe that most of the magical movement texts within the Modernists (gsar ma) schools,
namely Kagyu, Sakya (Sa skya) and Gelugpa, are derived from the Six Yogas. At this point, this
remains as a mere assumption on my part that needs further investigation.
4 There seems to be a general tendency in the academic study of Tibetan Buddhism to see India as
the sole authority in Tibet. This probably arose from the famous 'encounter' known as the
'Council of Lhasa' or Samye (bSam yas) debate which purportedly took place between the Sino-
Tibetan Buddhist tradition-represented primarily by the ch'an monk Hvasang Mahayana (in
Chinese Ho-shang Mo-ho-yan)-, and the Indo-Tibetan counterpart-represented mainly by
Kamalasila, a scholar from the Indian University of Nalanda. Most known accounts concur that
the Tibetan King Tritson Deutsen (Khri srong Ide brstan), who appears as the organizer and arbiter
of this encounter, decided in favor of the Indo-Tibetan party {For more in-depth studies of this
debate see Paul DemiE~ville, Le Concile de Lhasa (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1952), Luis
O. G6mez, "Indian Materials on the Doctrine Of Sudden Enlightenment," pp. 393-434, and David
S. Ruegg, Buddha-nature, Mind and the Problem of Gradualism in a Comparative Perspective
(Cambridge: University of London Press, 1989), among others}.
Scholars such as Dan Martin and Toni Huber have pointed out how this bias also affects the
relationship between Bon and Buddhism. As Toni Huber states, "Indic doctrinal explanations for
what Tibetans do and say has drawn the analytical focus away from a closer investigation of the
assumed emic categories" (Toni Huber, "Putting the gnas back into gnas-skor: Rethinking Tibetan
Buddhist Pilgrimage Practice," The Tibet Journal, XIX, 2, 1994, p. 24. See also Dan Martin, "The
Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical Tradition." Ph. D. dissertation, Bloomington:
Indiana University, 1991 and; as well as my own follow up on their steps in Chaoul, M.A.,
"Tracing the origins of cho (gcod) in the Bon tradition: a dialogic approach cutting through
sectarian boundaries," M.A. Thesis, Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia, 1999).
I would like to call attention to the need for more research in regards to the Chinese influence in
Tibetan practices and schools of thought. Samten Karmay, in The Great Perfection: A Philosophical
and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism (Leiden and New York: E. J. Brill, 1988), touches upon
this question regarding the origins of the Dzogchen (Rdzogs chen) school. However, he does not
reach any definite resolution on the Chinese influence, or lack of it, in Dzogchen.
3

dating back to at least the eighth century.s In fact, they claim that different kinds

of magical movement were practiced much earlier than that and preserved only

as an oral tradition. 6 Certainly by the eleventh century, many Tibetan texts point

to the existence of the practice of magical movement, especially within the

traditions mentioned above? Although more research is needed to discover

precisely how this practice was articulated originally and how it changed over

time, it is clear that its roots were well established in Tibetan religious traditions

over a thousand years ago, as the texts studied here will attest.

Focusing on the magical movement as presented in the Bon Great

Completeness Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung (Rdzogs pa chen po zhang zhung

snyan rgyud, hereafter ZZ Oral Transmission),B I have two distinct yet

S Norbu states that "the great acarya Vairacana (8 th century) ... developed this tradition of
Trulkhor Nyida Khajor or Yantra, known as the Unification of Sun and Moon" (Namkhai Norbu,
Yantra Yoga, p. 11). The extant Tibetan text contains the root text by Vairocana and a commentary
by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche himself (Be ro tsa na and Nam mkha'i nor bu, 'Phrul 'khor nyi zla
kha sbyor gyi rtsa 'grel, Cheng-tu: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1993, hereafter Sun and Moon).
6 In the section of "Sources," within this chapter, I will comment on the importance of orality in
the Tibetan traditions.
7 Mar pa Chos kyi blo gras, Rtsa rlung 'phrul 'khor (Cheng tu: Si khran mi rigs dpe skrun khang,
1995); Vairocana's Sun and Moon, mentioned earlier; some of the texts related to the Six Yogas (or
Doctrines) of Naropa such as Tilopa (Til Ii pa)'s Oral Instructions of the Six Yogas (Chos drug gi man
ngag zhes bya ba), and Narapa (Na ro pa)'s Vajra Verses of the Whispered Tradition (Snyan rgyud rdo
rje'i tshig rkang)-both in Glenn Mullin's Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa--; and the Bon text
that is part of this study and is mentioned right below, among others.
B "The Great Perfection Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung." History and Doctrines of Bonpo
Nispanna Yoga. Ed. Lokesh Chandra and Tenzin Namdak. Satapitaka Series Vol. 73. New Delhi:
International Academy of Indian Culture, 1968. Usually translated as "Oral Transmission," and
lately too as "Aural Transmission" (Per Kvaerne, The Bon Religion of Tibet: Iconography of a Living
Tradition, Boston: Shambhala, 1996, and following him, Donatella Rossi, The Philosophical View of
the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon Religion, Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 1999).
Although I am using "oral transmission" for snyan rgyud, I find "aural" or "listening" to be more
accurate renderings of snyan. However, since it has been used and known in this way and I also
feel that "aural" and "listening" could be seen as somewhat cumbersome, I will follow the usual
4

complementary objectives in this dissertation. The first and more central to the

field of religious studies is to present this tradition of magical movement in its

cultural context, including how it is used in Bon lay settings and monastic

curricula today. The second is to provide a bridge to the field of medicine and

the medical humanities, consequently determining the possible benefits of using

these mind-body techniques as part of a elM treatment for people with cancer.

In the present chapter, I introduce the reader to magical movement

concepts and practices in Tibet by providing a historical and religious context to

them in the Bon tradition. In chapter two, I discuss theoretical framework(s) of

yogic practices and compare them to Indian yoga and its dynamics. I propose a

variant that I feel is more applicable to understand Tibetan magical movement.

In chapter three, I follow the actual magical movement texts of the ZZ Oral

Transmission, describing them as well as interpreting them based on the theory

proposed in chapter 2 and my own experience. In chapter four, I report the

rendering. It is important to note that "oral" is not wrong either, since it is a tradition that was
transmitted orally from the mouth of the master to the ear of the disciple, usually through a
bamboo cane. Glenn Mullin, probably to capture this sense, translates the term as "an ear-
whispered tradition" (Glenn Mullin, Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa, p. 17), although all oral
traditions are not whispered, as will become clear in the discussion of "oral genres" later in this
chapter.
Also, following Anne Klein, who takes this from Sogyal Rinopche, I chose to translate "Great
Completeness" rather than "Great Perfection" for the Dzogchen school of thought and practice.
"Perfection" has the connotation of perfecting that state of mind whereas 'completeness'
emphasizes the sense of 'fullness' that, in my understanding, is more in accordance with the way
this state is described in Dzogchen texts. David Germano, although finally opting to use 'Great
Perfection,' acknowledges that 'completeness' captures a better sense of rdzogs. In fact his more
literal translation would be 'super-completeness" (David Germano, "Dzogchen Mini-
Encyclopedia," Charlottesville, VA: UV A: 1994, p. 683-unpublished). However, others such as
5

curriculum that twentieth-century Tibetans follow and trace the migration of this

practice to the West, both in dharma or Buddhist centers settings and the

contemporary Western medical environment. Chapter five is my conclusion.

II. Historical Context: The Bon Religion

The magical movement practice that is the center of this study belongs to

the ZZ Oral Transmission, one among three Bon Dzogchen lineage teachings. 9 It

is, therefore, essential to be acquainted with the Bon religion in order to provide

the historical and religious context for this discussion.

The Bon religion is proclaimed to have been well established in Tibet by

the time Buddhism arrived there in the seventh century CE.I0 The question of the

origins of Bon has undergone lengthy discussions among both Tibetan and Euro-

American scholars. However, the prominence of Buddhism over Bon produced

"religious polemical work quite hostile to Bon [Bon]."ll Dan Martin, who has

studied this topic extensively, writes, "[s]tatements about the 'primitive animism

of Bon' and its later 'transformation' or 'accommodation' (or 'plagiarism') have

Dan Martin use "Great Perfectedness" following Sogyal and Klein (see Dan Martin, Unearthing
Bon Treasures, Leiden, Boston, Koln: Brill, 2001), p. 14.
9 The other two are The instructions on the A (A khrid) and the Dzogchen itself.
10 S. Karmay, "A General Introduction to the History and Doctrines of Bon," The Memoirs of Toyo
Bunko, #33,1975, pp. 180-187.
11 D. Martin, Mandala Cosmogony: Human Body Good Thought and the Revelation of the Secret Mother
Tantras of Bon. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1994, p.6. For a study of the polemical
tradition in greater detail, see also D. Martin, "The Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical
Tradition" (Ph. D. dissertation. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1991).
6

been repeated so often that they have achieved a status of cultural Truth."12

Martin, among others, proposes that,

Bon [Bon] as it existed during the last millennium represents an


unusual, yet quite legitimate transmission of Buddhist teachings
ultimately based on little-known Central Asian Buddhist
tradi tions. 13

The relationship between Bon and Chos, both being equivalents for the Sanskrit

word dharma (in the sense of Teachings about the true nature of phenomena and

persons) for Bonpos and Buddhists respectively, is still controversial today.

Some scholars, like Per Kvaerne, consider Bon to be a non-Buddhist religion.

Their claim is based on "concepts of religious authority, legitimization and

history"14 related to Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche (sTon pa gshen rab mi bo che) instead

of Buddha Shakyamuni. But others, such as Martin, Snellgrove, and Kvaerne in

his earlier publications,ls describe Bon as a Buddhist sect-albeit an unorthodox

one-based upon practice and doctrinal similarities of "rituals, metaphysical

12 D. Martin, "The Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical Tradition," p.3. In this
dissertation, I will only briefly discuss these polemics and re-direct the interested reader to
Martin's works cited here.
13 D. Martin, Mandala Cosmogony, p. 5.
14 Per Kvaerne, The Bon Religion of Tibet: The Iconography of a Living Tradition, Boston: Shambhala
publications, 1996, p. 10. See also Dan Martin, Unearthing Bon Treasures, pp. 30-39. His Holiness
the XIV Dalai Lama states, "[tlhe Bon tradition, which had existed in Tibet before the arrival of
Buddhism, also came to possess a complete set of the Buddha's teachings" The Dalai Lama, A
Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Boston & London:
Shambhala Publications, 1994) p. 7.
15 See P. Kvaerne, "Aspects of the Origin of the Buddhist Tradition in Tibet," Numen 19,1:22-40,
1972.
7

doctrine and monastic discipline."16 For the present, I do not entirely endorse any

of these stands but rather acknowledge these different perspectives as teachings

that share similar traits. I also believe that further historical research is needed. It

seems that, in the past, both Tibetan and Euro-American scholars have neglected

to examine Bon texts, thereby silencing the Bon tradition by way of their "docta

ignorantia, which considers the Bon texts unworthy of their interest."17 Some

doorways, like the Eastern Tibetan "non-sectarian" (ris rned) movement of the

nineteenth century and the present Dalai Lama's recognition of Bon as the fifth

Tibetan School, may be helpful in building a broader acceptance and

understanding of the Bon tradition as a whole. 18

Kvaerne states that the term Bon has the same range of connotations for its

adherents (Bonpos) as Chos has for the Buddhists. 19 This echoes an earlier

conciliatory-and courageous-position by the Great Vairocana (Be roi drag bag

Chen rno), shared presumably by a slim group in eighth-century Tibet, who is

attributed to have written, "Bon and Dharma differ only in terms of their

16 Per Kvaerne, The Bon Religion of Tibet: The Iconography of a Living Tradition, p. 10. See also D.
Martin, "The Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical Tradition," and Mandala Cosmogony;
and D. Snellgrove, The Nine Ways of Bon, and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and their
Tibetan Successors (London: Serindia Publications, 1987).
17 D. Martin, "The Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical Tradition," p. 86.
18 The Tibetan Government in exile at Dharamsala has had Bon representatives as part of their
Assembly since the early 1970's (Rinchen Dharlo, former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama to the Americas, personal communication, August 1998). Also, the 1991 Kalachakra
teachings and initiation by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New York city marked quite a
historical event when leading teachers from all five traditions gave teachings on the nature of
mind from their perspectives. Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak gave those teachings from the
Bon tradition's point of view.
8

disciples, their meaning is inseparable, a single essence."20 Furthermore,

Reynolds claims:

[f]or the Bonpos especially, the Dharma, whether it is called "chos"


or "bon" in Tibetan, is not something sectarian, but it truly
represents a Primordial Revelation, which is again and again
revealed throughout time and history. It is not only primordial, but
perennial. The Dharma is not simply the unique product of a
particular historical period, namely, sixth century [BCE] North
India. 21

Interestingly, "[t]here is no word for 'Buddhism' in Tibetan."22 Both the Bonpos

and the Buddhists (followers of Chos) utilize the term "insider" (nang pa) for the

followers, and Buddha (sangs rgyas) to define he who is enlightened or

awakened. Germano explains:

Sangs rgyas etymologically refers to how in this enlightenment


experience the Buddha "clears away" (sangs) the sleep of ignorance,
and thus "unfolds" or "expands" (rgyas) the enlightened qualities
(yon tan) of pristine awareness previously obscured by the clouds of
ignorance enveloping it. 23

In other words, Bon and Chos can be seen as different ways of expressing the

teachings of a Buddha, accepting too, as is common belief among Tibetans, that

19 P. Kvaerne, The Bon Religion of Tibet, p. II.


20 Vairocana, Authenticity (Gtan tshigs Gal rndo rig pa's tshad rna) 128.4 In Anne C. Klein and Geshe
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Unbounded Wholeness: Dzogchen, Bon, and the Logic of the Nonconceptual
(Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2006), p. 198.
21 J. Reynolds, "Yungdrung Bon, The Eternal Tradition: The Ancient Pre-Buddhist Religion of
Central Asia and Tibet: Its History, Teachings, and Literature." Freehold, NJ: Bonpo Translation
Project, 1991, p. 7.
22 D. Snellgrove, The Nine Ways of Bon, p. I.
23 David Germano, "Dzogchen Mini Encyclopaedia," Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia,
1994, p. 660. Change of Tibetan capitalization is mine.
9

there are as many Buddhas as stars in the sky. Martin points to the fact that it is

important to study the historical development of Bon, when he says:

[i]t may indeed be best to leave the question of origins to one side,
and go on to try and learn as much as possible about the various
aspects of this very old tradition as it existed in historical times
until the present. If this brings no immediate conclusions about the
questions of origins, it will certainly bring us a clearer picture of the
entity whose origins we might wish to trace. 24

Traditional Bon history claims that 18,000 years ago the Buddha Tonpa Shenrab

Miwoche came to a region of central Asia known as Olmo Lungring COl rna lung

ring).25 The teachings he gave there spread throughout all Central Asia, first to

the regions of Tazig (sTag gzig) and Zhang Zhung (Zhang zhung), and then to

Tibet, Kashmir, India and China. "According to Tibetan Bonpo tradition, the

major part of its literature has been translated from the sacred language of Zhang

zhung,"26 with many Bonpo texts containing Zhang Zhung words interspersed

with TibetanP As Martin explains:

24 D. Martin, Mandala Cosmogony, p. II.


25 Some consider Olmo Lungring to be the same as Shambhala in Buddhist accounts. In both
cases, it has been difficult for scholars to determine whether this land actually existed on the face
of our planet or if it is a mythical land. For a brief discussion on this, please see Sam ten Karmay,
"A General Introduction to the History and Doctrines of Bon" (in The Memoirs of Toyo Bunko, #33,
1975), pp. 171-5, Martin, Unearthing Bon Treasures, pp. 10-15, and the forthcoming Anne C. Klein
and Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Unbounded Wholeness, pp. 171-179.
26 Giacomella Orofino, "The State of the Art in the Study on the Zhang zhung language" in
Annali, 50 fasc. I, Italy: Instituto Universitaro Orientale, 1990, p. 83. I will use Zhang Zhung-both
words beginning with capital Z- for the place and Zhang zhung for the langugage.
27 For more information on the Zhang zhung language, please refer to Lopon Tenzin Namdak
"Dictionary of the Zhang zhung language/' and H. Haar, The Zhang-Zhung language: A Grammar
and Dictionary of the Unexplored language of the Tibetan Bonpos (Acta Jutlantica, XL, 1, Kobenhavn,
1968).
10

The Bon traditions' own accounts of the history of their scriptures


have them undergoing triple or even quadruple translations
between the language of origin and the present Tibetan versions.
The triply translated (sum 'gyur) texts generally went from Tazig to
Zhang zhung to Tibetan, while the quadruply translated texts
generally went from 'divine language' (lha'i skad) to Sanskrit to
Tazig to Zhang zhung to Tibetan. 28

In these accounts, Tonpa Shenrab was Shakyamuni Buddha's teacher during two

consecutive incarnations. 29 In the first of these, Tonpa Shenrab was called Chime

Tsugphu ('Chi med gtsug phud, "Immortal Crowned One"),30 and Shakyamuni

Buddha, as his disciple, was called Sangwa Dupa (Gsang ba 'dus pa, "Essential

Secret").31 In the following life, now as Tonpa Shenrab, Shakyamuni Buddha was

again one of his main disciples, called Lhabu Dampa Karpo (Lha'i bu dam pa dkar

po, "White Pure Son of the Gods").32 Lhabu Dampa Karpo asked his teacher what

could he do to help sentient beings, and Tonpa Shenrab told him that he should

help the people in India who were following a wrong view. For that purpose,

Tonpa Shenrab gave Lhabu Dampa Karpo an initiation so he would not forget

the teachings in his future lives. Thus, the next life he was born in India as Prince

28 D. Martin, "The Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical Tradition," p. 92. The lack of
hyphenation in Tibetan phonetic is mine.
29 In the renowned nineteenth century chronology (bstan rcis) by Nyima Tenzin, Tonpa Shenrab's
dates are 16.016-7, 816 B.CE (See Kvaerne, 1971). Martin mentions that a fourteenth century
source dates Tonpa Shenrab in 974 BCE (D. Martin, Unearthing Bon Treasures, p. 10, ft. 1).
30 'Chi med, meaning "no death" or "immortal," is "an epithet of Buddha" (Chandra Das, Tibetan-
English Dictionary, compact edition, Delhi: Book Faith India, 1992, p. 444).
31 This is one way in which Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche translated it (personal communication,
November 1998); it could also be rendered as "Secret Gathering."
32 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak explained Lhabu Dampa Karpo's purity as that of a crystal, and
referred to him as "Crystal Boy," oral teachings, Mexico, June 1998.
11

of the Shakya clan and taught following the instructions previously given to him

by his teacher, Tonpa Shenrab, thereby benefiting many sentient beings. 33

Reynolds states, "it was principally in Zhangzhung [Zhang Zhung] and

Tibet that the earlier version of Buddha's teachings called Bon have been

preserved."34 Both Reynolds and Martin mention the probable connection

between the term "Bon" and Central Asia, in particular Tazig (today's Iran).

Reynolds writes:

Although some scholars [like Snellgrove] would derive the word


bon from an old Tibetan verb 'bond-pa', meaning to 'invoke the
gods,' corresponding to the Zhangzhungpa word gyer, it appears
rather to come from the Tazigpa or Sogdian/Iranian word bwn
meaning 'the Dharma.' This is another indication that the origin of
Yungdrung Bon, or the Swastika Dharma, 'the Eternal Tradition,' is
to be found in the vast unknown spaces of Central Asia rather than
historical Tibet. 35

Martin, inspired by works of Christopher Beckwith, under whom he studied at

Indiana University, suggests, "the Tibetan word bon might be a borrowing from

Iranian Buddhists."36 Martin himself does not support or reject this theory, but

33 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, oral teachings, Mexico, June 1998. Martin points out that Tonpa
Shenrab's medium length biography in two volumes (Gzer mig) and long biography in twelve
volumes (Gzi rjid) not only have certain similarity to Buddha Shakyamuni's and Guru Rinpoche's
lives, but also to the epics of Gesar and the Indian Ra rna yana (D. Martin, Unearthing Bon
Treasures, p. 33). Martin also suggests that "the Bon parallels may actual precede the versions of
the Gesar epic that have come down to us" (Ibid, p. 33, ft. 11).
34 J. Reynolds, "The Threefold Practice of the Primordial State of the Mother Tantra," "The
Threefold Practice of the Primordial State of the Mother Tantra. "San Diego and Amsterdam:
Vidyadhara Publications, 1996, p. 1.
35 Ibid, p. 1.
36 D. Martin, Mandala Cosmogony, p. 9. He refers to a "privately circulated draft" in which
Beckwith describes this relationship between the bwn and dharma while analyzing a famous
12

instead asserts that "it does fit nicely with the Bon claim that their religion

originated in sTag gzig (Tazig)."37 At this stage, it is difficult to determine how

much Bon and Chos encompass one another or to determine the extent and locus

of this overlapping. Shardza, in his work on Bon history, Treasury of Good Sayings,

writes:

Enlightened Ones in their unceasing efforts and compassion as they


labor for the welfare of sentient beings have made manifest
temporary revelations of both Bon and Chos. We follow different
doctrines to achieve different purposes. 38

Klein and Wangyal gloss Shardza's quote stating that "'[d]ifferent purposes'

arise through different doctrines being engaged, but their motivation and

profundity are consonant."39 This is in agreement with Reynold's earlier citation

that the Dharma is not simply the unique product of a particular historical

period, but it takes different forms according to the needs of the audience.

Traditional Bon accounts claim that Tonpa Shenrab's main teachings were the

cycles of the Nine Ways or Nine Vehicles (theg pa dgu), and the Five Doors (sgo

Inga).40 The Nine Ways, being more popular, consists of four causal vehicles

Iranian cosmological work, Bundahisn, in which the term bwn means "construct," which is another
meaning of dharma or chos.
37 Ibid, p. 9 (change of capitalization and lack of hyphenation in the Tibetan transliteration is
mine).
38 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, The Treasury of Good Sayings (Legs bshad mdzod), translated by Samten
Karmay (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1972) IN Klein and Wangyal, Unbounded Wholeness, p.
199.
39 Klein and Wangyal, Unbounded Wholeness, p. 199.
40 The Nine Ways will be discussed just below. As for a list of the Five Doors, also called Four
Doors and the Treasure, see J. Reynolds, "Yungdrung Bon," p. 7, and p. 6 of his appendix.
13

(rgyu'i bon, sometimes called "Shamanic" by Euro-American scholars) that

include medicine, astrology, divination; the subsequent result vehicles ('bras bu'i

bon), of the sutras and tantras; and the culminating Dzogchen (rdzogs chen, "Great

Completeness").41 Additionally, Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, widely considered

the most respected contemporary scholar and lama from the Bon tradition, states

that because, all nine vehicles were taught by Tonpa Shenrab, they are all

considered legitimate paths to enlightenment. 42

Bonpos themselves distinguish three kinds of Bon, namely Bon (which

retrospectively is qualified as early or primitive), Yungdrung (g.yung drung) or

eternal Bon, and new Bon (bon gsar). Early Bon is seen as an ensemble of the

41 See D. Snellgrove, Nine Ways of Bon, because of whom this cycle became the first Euro-
American translation of a Bon teaching. It is also important to note that the system of Nine
Vehicles in the Buddhist Nyingma tradition is different from the Bon, only similar in the number
of vehicles into which they divide the teachings. There are also three different versions of the
Nine Ways within the Bon tradition, the most popular one--the one that Snellgrove translated--is
according to the Southern treasure (lho gter), or the rediscovery found in the South of the country.
There are also the versions of the Northern treasure (byang gter), and of the Central treasure (dbus
gter). See S. Karmay, "A General Introduction to the Bon Doctrine," pp. 178-9, and Katsumi
Mimaki, "A Fourteenth Century Bon Po Doxography. The Bon sgo byed by Tre ston rgyal mtshan
dpal-A Preliminary Report toward a Critical Edition" (in Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the
International Association of Tibetan Studies {Fagernes 1992}, Vol. 2, Oslo, Norway: The Institute for
Comparative Research in Human Culture, 1994), pp. 570-79. For a listing of the vehicles in all
three treasures, see J. Reynolds, "Yungdrung Bon," p. 7, and p. 5 of his appendix.
Shardza Rinpoche did a study of the three nine-way classifications in Lung rig rin po che'i
mdzod blo gsal snying gi nor (see S. Karmay, A Catalogue of Bonpo Publications, pp. 171-2). The Nine
Ways system, together with the Five Doors, are the base of what is called Yungdrung Bon (g.Yung
drung bon), which is the old Bon system that Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak follows and which will be
briefly discussed below.
42 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, oral communication, Sunrise Springs, New Mexico, August 1998,
and in other occasions.
14

popular religions, similar to what Stein calls "the nameless religion."43

Yungdrung Bon is the religion that claims its origin in the Buddha Tonpa

Shenrab and sees itself as a separate religion from Buddhism, even when

acknowledging similarities. New Bon is a movement that surfaced in the

sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It arose from the interaction and

amalgamation between Yungdrung Bon and Nyingma, the earlier Buddhist

tradition in Tibet. 44 Euro-American scholars usually doubt the veracity of the

dating of the Yungdrung Bon claims of their structure of the nine vehicles,

usually pushing the date no earlier than the eighth or even tenth century.45

Buddhists, even in the cases when they classify their teachings in nine vehicles,

do not claim the causal vehicles as part of their teachings, much less as a separate

43 R. A. Stein, La Cilvilisation Tibetaine, in P. Kvaerne, "The Bon Religion of Tibet: A Survey of


Research" (in The Buddhist Forum, Vol. III, Ed. by T. Skorupski & U. Pagel, London: School of
Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1994), p. 134.
44 Klein and Wangyal state, "Dranpa Namkha [Dran pa rnam kha'] and Vairocana are among the
main persons who integrated old and new Bon for the first time" (Klein and Wangyal, Unbounded
Wholeness, p. 179). However, they add that it was not practiced until the seventeenth century with
the impulse of the four masters also known as "the four tulkus," which are Sangye Lingpa (Sangs
rgyas gling pa, b.1705), Loden Nyingpo (Blo Idan snying po, b. 1360), Kundrol Drakpa (Kun grol
grags pa, b. 1700), and Mishik Dorje (Mi shig rdo rje, b. 1650). They also refer the reader to Karmay'
s translation of Shardza's The Treasury of Good Sayings.
45 In particular there is discussion about the origin of the Dzogchen teachings, both in Bon and
Buddhism. Karmay talks of the three Dzogchen systems (A rdzogs snyan gsum) within the Bon
tradition, dating the earliest, the Zhang zhung snyan rgyud, to the eighth century, and the other
two, A khrid and Rdzog chen, to the eleventh century-for the latter, 1088 was the date of re-
discovery (see S. Karmay, "A General Introduction to the Bon Doctrine," p. 215). Namkhai Norbu
also discusses the origin of the Dzogchen teachings, claiming that these teachings came from
Tazig and were propounded by the Buddha Shenrab Miwo (N. Norbu, The Necklace of gZi, pp. 15-
18).
15

vehicle. 46 In fact, even though Buddhists in Tibet have incorporated some of

these practices, they appear to have a protective feeling of exclusivity toward

what in Yungdrung Bon are called the result vehicles. Euro-American scholars,

in particular Snellgrove, Martin and Kvaeme, who accept the idea that Bon is an

unorthodox form of Buddhism, see the Bon teachings coming from the same

source as Buddhism (namely Shakyamuni), but arriving in Tibet at different

times and through different routes. Snellgrove believes that the teachings that

were later called Bon were a form of Buddhism (mainly tantric) that began first

in Zhang Zhung and then spread to Central Tibet. There, these teachings clashed

with the Buddhist teachings that came directly from India. 47 It is clear that there

was a Bon religion existing in Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism around the

seventh to eighth centuries eE, but it is hard to determine what teachings it was

comprised of then. Today, Yungdrung Bon consists of nine vehicles. Therefore,

this study will not support the common misunderstanding of limiting the Bon

religion to solely causal or "shamanic" vehicles, nor the equally problematic

identification of all Bon practitioners with "result vehicles."48 Kvaerne writes:

46 As mentioned in footnote 41, the Nyingma school also has a system of Nine Ways. In fact their
system is similar to that of the Bonpo Central Treasure (see Katsumi Mimaki, "A Fourteenth
Century Bon Po Doxography").
47 See D. Snellgrove, The Nine Ways of Bon, and P. Kvaerne, "The Bon Religion of Tibet." In the
latter article, Kvaerne also explains the understanding of the Bon religion by Euro-American
scholars and its development particularly around the issue of pre- and post-Buddhist Bon, which
this dissertation will not discuss.
48 It is also important to bear in mind, as David Germano warns, that "bon was also a rubric right
into the twentieth century for shamanic type practitioners who had little interest or concern with
16

Bon was not a sinister perversion of Buddhism, but rather an


eclectic tradition which, unlike Buddhism in Tibet, insisted on
accentuating rather than denying its pre-Buddhist elements. 49

III. Defining Magical Movement

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from


magic" (Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future)50

Over the last five years, I have worked extensively to refine my understanding of

the Bon magical movement by studying with Ponlob Thinley Nyima, the current

principal teacher (dpon slob) at Menri (Sman ri) monastery in India. I traveled to

Menri twice during this time, and he has traveled to the U.s. once a year over the

past five years. During each visit, I met with him for in-depth discussions

regarding the present work. It was within those conversations that the

translation of "magical movement" for 'phrul 'khor arose. 'Phrul, which is usually

translated in dictionaries and common parlance as "magic" or "magical," can

also take on the meaning of "machine" or "mechanics" when combined with

'khor, as in the compound 'phrul 'khor.51 'Khor literally means "wheel" but also

"circular movement" or just "movement," and thus 'phrul 'khor can be translated

as "magical movement(s)" or "magical wheel." Some interesting idiomatic

such sophisticated bon movements [like Yungdrung Bon]" (D. Germano, electronic
correspondence, August 1998).
49 P. Kvaerne, "The Bon Religion of Tibet," p. 135.

50 Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1973.


17

phrases containing the term 'phrul 'khor are: 'phrul thab kyi 'khor 10, "wheel or

movement of the magical method;" mngon shes brda thabs 'phrul 'khor, "the 'phrul

'khor which symbolizes supreme knowledge;" and 'phrul 'khor 'khor ba: 'phrul chas

'khor 10 rang bzhin du 'khor ba, "Spinning the machinery like wheels."52 Khenpo

Tenpa Yungdrung, current Abbot of Tritan Norbutse Monastery in Nepal, says

the magic (,phrul) refers to "the unusual effects that these movements produce in

the experience of the practitioner."53

With that in mind and because it seems to better bring forth its meaning, I

will be using "magical movement" to describe this practice. As stated earlier,

magical movement is a distinctive Tibetan practice of physical yoga in which

breath and concentration of the mind are integrated with particular body

movements, such as those of ZZ Oral Transmission. 54

51 Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo, Cheng-tu: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang; H.A. Jashke, A Tibetan-
English Dictionary, New Delhi: Munshiram Monoharlal Publishers, 1998 (rpt. 1881); and Chandra
Das, Tibetan-English Dictionary (compact edition), Delhi: Book Faith India, 1992 (rpt from 1902).
52 Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo, p. 1793-1794. English translations are mine. Jashke adds, "magical
wheel, in ancient literature merely a phantastic attribute of gods etc.; in modern life applicable to
every more complicated machine with a rotating motion e.g. a sugar mill (H.A. Jashke, A
Tibetan-English Dictionary, p. 360)
Also, Chandra Das focuses in its meaning as "magic circle" and provides seven different kinds of
them related to protect and/or capture enemies (Chandra Das, Tibetan-English Dictionary, p. 855).
53 Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung, oral conversation, Houston, TX, December 2005.
54 I should note that what in Quintessential Instructions is spelled 'phrul 'khor is written as 'khrul
'khor in Shardza's Commentary. Even when citing from the former, Shardza maintains this
spelling. We not only see that in the title but in every occurrence of the word (see Commentary pp.
321-346). Ponlob Thinley Nyima favors 'phrul 'khor as the best rendition, as seen above and more
specifically from our discussions in Houston 2002 and 2003. However, Yongdzin Tenzin
Namdak, arguably the most respected contemporary scholar and lama from the Bon tradition,
asserts that 'khrul 'khor is actually a mistake and that 'phrul 'khor is not just the best but the only
correct spelling to use when referring to this kind of practices (Personal communication,
18

Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, to my knowledge the only contemporary

Tibetan lama (bla rna) and scholar to have written about this category of practices,

also elucidates the meaning of 'phrul 'khor both as 'magical' and as 'machine.'

Using the Sanskrit equivalent, yantra yoga, in a book of the same title,55 he

persuasively describes the body as a machine or a tool that one can utilize to

understand one's own nature more clearly. This, he states, is the aim of yoga. 56

In using the term "magical" to describe this practice, I am aware that it

might not agree with the usual understanding in English. Partly, as H.s. Versnel

writes, "our notion 'magic' is a modem-western biased construct which does not

fit representations of other cultures."57 Therefore, I feel that a short explanation is

needed here. 58 As it is stated the Encyclopedia of Religion, "[m]agic is a word with

many definitions, an English word that is linked to others in most European

languages but from which there may be no precise equivalent elsewhere."59

Charlottesville, November 2004). We do, however, find the same kind of error in other Buddhists
texts, like in the "Six Yogas of Naropa" (In W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga, p. 207, ft. 1).
55 Namkhai Norbu, Yantra Yoga, Ed. by Oliver Leick, Arcidosso, Italy: Shang shung Edizioni,
1998.
56 Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, Ed. by John Shane, New York and London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 85.
57 H.S. Versnel, "Some Reflections on the Relationship Magic-Religion," Numen, Vol. XXXVIII,
Fasc. 2, (Dec. 1991), pp.177. I am grateful to Daniel Levine for pointing me to this article.
58 I want to thank Jeff Kripal for pointing this out to me (oral conversation, Houston, TX, August,
2005).
59 John Middleton, "Magic: Theories of Magic," Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Lindsay Jones,
Vol. 8. 2nd edition. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, p. 5562. Some of the meanings of the
English word "magic" are:
1. conjuring tricks and illusions that make apparently impossible things seem to happen, usually
performed as entertainment;
2. a special, mysterious, or inexplicable quality, talent, or skill;
19

Although in the past, most scholars in religion and anthropology defined magic

by contrasting it with religion,60 "[rJecent developments in a number of

disciplines bearing South Asian cultures, among others, make the distinction

between magic and religion hard to sustain."61 Scholars today use magic in a

more inclusive way. In fact, "[n]umerous practices previously labeled magical

can be seen as sharing a basic rationality with either religion or medicine,

psychiatry, conflict resolution, or even technology."62 Within the context of

religious studies, Indologist Jeffrey Kripal states that magic is generally

understood as "a vague reliance on external forces that are never rationally

defined but which can be manipulated by ritual activity."63 It seems clear that,

"[i]n most societies, magic forms an integral part of the sphere of religious

thought and behavior, that is, with the sacred, set apart from the everyday."64

Furthermore, the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas defines magic as "the

performance of acts or rites that are intended to influence a person, object, or

3. a supposed supernatural power that makes impossible things happen, or that gives somebody
control over the forces of nature; and
4. the use of supposed supernatural power to make impossible things happen.
And as an adjective, magical: relating to magic or used in the working of magic.
(Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing PIc).
60 See for example The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings-Edinburgh: T.
& T. Clark, 1915, Vol. 8, pp. 245-324.
61 Ariel Glucklich, "Magic: Magic in South Asia," Encyclopedia of Religion, p. 5587.
62 Ibid, p. 5587.
63 Jeffrey J. Kripal, "Shashibhushan Dasgupta's Lotus: Realizing the Sublime in Contemporary
Tantric Studies," Breaking Boundaries with the Goddess: New Directions in the Study of Saktism:
Essays in Honor of Narendra Nath Bhattacharyya, edited by Cynthia Ann Humes and Rachel Fell
McDermott. New Delhi: Manohar, 2006, p. 16.
64 John Middleton, "Magic: Theories of Magic," Encyclopedia of Religion, p. 5562.
20

event," adding that "[m]agical acts or rites are usually performed with the

assistance of mystical power.// 65 This mystical power is related to an inner magic

or inner transformation. Critical Terms for Religious Studies 66 does not include

"magic" as one of its terms. However, in that book, the discussion on

"transformation//67 includes inner transformation in the work of Lao Tzu, and

states;

bodily shifts, however multiple or spectacular, are but incidental to


the internal transformation experienced. It is internal
transformation at the deepest level that becomes the most sought
after religious experience. It is also a transformation often linked to
magic. 68

It is thus in this sense that I am using magic in "magical movement.// 69 Therefore,

this yogic practice can be understood as movements that guide the manipulation

of the gross and subtle bodies or dimensions (including channels, vital breath

currents, and essential spheres-subtle aspects of the mind), which can lead to

internal or even mystical experiences and transformation of the practitioner. And

65 Diane Ciekawy, "Magic," New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Horowitz,
Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner's sons, 2005, p. 1330.
66 Critical Terms for Religious Studies, edited by Mark Taylor, Chicago and London: University of
Chicago Press.
67 Bruce Lawrence, "Transformation," Critical Terms for Religious Studies, pp. 334-348.
68 Ibid, p. 335.
69 Lawrence also mentions how this relates to the two kinds of alchemy, internal and external,
which I will refer to in the next chapter (Ibid, p. 335).
21

that is the inner magic: the power that the performance of these movements can

have on the experience of the practitioner and his/her state of mind,7°

In other words, I am using magic in a more inclusive sense of the word,

which corresponding to the above discussion, includes manipulation of external

forces, alchemy, mysticism and medicine or healing. In chapter 3, we will see

how magical movement can bring external transformations, such as walking

without touching the ground and reversing one's age, as well as more internal

ones, such as mental experiences, which could be equated to external

manipulations, alchemy and mysticism, respectively. The use as healing or

medicine could be seen as a by-product of that transformation or as one of the

"unusual effects" that Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung referred to in an earlier quote.

This too can be considered magic. Thus, in consonance with Clarke's line above,

magical movement can be a sufficiently advanced mind-body technology that is

magical in all the ways described above.

Mind-Energy-Body

In Buddhist and Bon teachings, one's physical body, speech or energy,

and mind are known as the three doors through which one practices and realizes

70 For a discussion on the relationship between transformation and magic-including alchemy and
mysticism-, see Jeffrey J. Kripal, "Shashibhushan Dasgupta's Lotus: Realizing the Sublime in
Contemporary Tantric Studies," pp. 3 - 18. In this discussion, Kripal relies heavily on Volney P.
Gay (Freud on Sublimation: Reconsiderations, Albany: SUNY, 1992). Gay also uses the term
"transfiguration" as "a spiritual transformation accomplished by the intervention of divine
forces" (Volney P. Gay, Freud on Sublimation, p. 111, in J. Kripal, p. 18). I prefer to use
"transformation" or even "inner transformation."
22

enlightenment. Within the speech or energy realm, there is a subtle energy body

that emerges both metaphorically and, for some, in actuality, as we will see later

on. This subtle energy body or adamantine body (rda rje Ius or sku) is composed

of channels (rtsa) and vital breath currents (rlung) that run within them,

providing the landscape where the mind and the physical body connect with

each other. In the Tibetan yogic tradition, there are certain practices that work

specifically with the energetic or subtle body and are in fact called "channels and

vital breath currents" or "channels-breaths" practices (rtsa rlung).71 Channels-

breaths are sometimes taught as a practice in itself but are often included within

magical movement, in which case they are called "magical movement [of/with]

channels-breaths" (rtsa rlung 'phrul'khar).

Rtsa (na~l, sira, srata or dhamanl in Sanskrit) generally means "channels" or

"circulation channels," and rlung (pralJa or vayu in Sanskrit) is translated here as

"vital breath currents," or simply "breaths," depending on the context. These

terms have different meanings; therefore translations vary according to the

context in which they appear, such as medical or religious practice. There are

even further variations among different texts and traditions,72 In Tibetan

71 Borrowing from Germano's "channel-winds practices" (Ozogchen Mini-Encyclopedia, p. 662),


I will use "channels-breaths" practices, since I feel it translates accurately from the Tibetan and
brings a better sense of what we are talking about: a specific practice that utilizes the channels
and different aspects of breath. It will become clearer below.
72 As Frances Garrett and Vincanne Adams assert, "The definition and enumeration of the
circulatory channels [rtsal is clearly a matter of controversy in medical and religious texts from
the origins of these literary and scholastic disciplines in Tibet to present date" (Frances Garrett
and Vincanne Adams, "The Three Channels in Tibetan Medicine," Traditional South Asian
23

medicine, the channels, specifically the circulation channels, include those that

carry not only breath and vital breath currents, but also blood, and other fluids

and energies that "connect all aspects of the body."73 Therefore, rtsa, depending

on the context, is translated as "veins," "arteries," "nerves," and so forth. In the

channels-breaths practices, rtsa refers to those channels that carry rlung. "Vital

breath currents" refers to rlung as qi in Chinese and pra:/Ja in Sanskrit, rather than

feng and vayu respectively, which may take on the meaning of external "air" or

"wind."74 In the channels-breaths practices, rlung does not refer to that external

wind but rather to internal subtler aspects of it, such as normal breath and vital

breath currents that run within the body through the circulatory channels.

Therefore, it is still related to the aspect of "wind," but the emphasis is on

"breath," more specifically on the subtler breaths that I am calling here "vital

breath currents." Since in rtsa rlung practices rlung includes both one's normal

breath as well as one's vital breath currents, I will use "channels-breaths" to

describe those practices. However, when I refer specifically to the subtler breaths,

I will use "vital breath currents."75

Medicine, forthcoming 2005, p. 6. I am grateful to Frances Garret for sharing her manuscript).
Hence, some consider that these channels as well as the subtle body have an imaginary status
(see for example Aghenanda Bharati- The Tantric Tradition, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1975).
73 Frances Garrett and Vincanne Adams, "The Three Channels in Tibetan Medicine," p. 2.
74 See Kim Gustchow, "A Study of 'Wind Disorder' or Madness in Zangskar, Northwest India,"
Recent Research on Ladakh, Vol. 7 ed. by T. Dodin and H. Raether (Ulm: Ulmer
Kulturanthropologische Schriften, Band 9, 1997. I am grateful to Mona Schrempf for directing me
to this article).
75 As Gustchow rightly asserts, "Tibetan medicine's concept of wind is as fluid and multivalent as
the reality which it signifies" (ibid, p.1). Consequently, in my own research within the context of
24

It can be assumed with magical movement practices, explicitly or

implicitly, that the practitioner is familiar with channels-breaths practices.

Channels-breaths practices are crucial in the training and harmonizing or

balancing (snyoms) of the channels and the vital breath currents of the

practitioner,76 Put simply, in these practices, the practitioner becomes familiar

with the channels first through visualization and then by using the mind to

direct the vital breath currents along those channels. In this way, one allows the

vital breath currents to circulate through the channels more evenly in terms of

the rhythm of the inhalation and exhalation and seeks a greater balance in terms

of the amount and strength of the breath through the different channels,77 The

mind rides on the vital breath currents, like a rider on a horse, and the two travel

together through the pathways of the channels,78 As the breath circulating in the

channels becomes more balanced, the channels turn increasingly pliable,

allowing the vital breath currents to find their own comfortably smooth rhythm.

When the breath rhythm is smooth, like a wave, the mind riding on it has a

smoother ride, which reduces the tendency toward agitation. With the help of

movements that guide the mind and vital breath currents into different areas, the

the magical movements of channels-breaths, I still do not feel I have reached a definitive
translation for rlung that will convey the full range of its meaning. For this dissertation, however,
I will use what I just proposed.
76 The way of training and harmonizing will be explained in the description of these practices in
Chapter 3.
77 In some occasions, as we will see later, the strength of the left nostril is emphasized, since it is
the channel linked with the wisdom aspects.
25

practice brings the possibility of healing or harmonizing body, energy, and mind,

or the body-energy-mind system. This is a goal of yogic practices and also a

model of good health that is in line with the concept of health or well being in

Tibetan medicine.

In the Bon tradition, the principal text used for the channels-breaths

practice is the Mother Tantra (Ma rgyud),79 especially the chapter on the

"Luminous Sphere of the Elements" ('Byung ba'i thig le).80 The Bonpo lama and

scholar, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, basing his research principally on the Mother

Tantra and his own experience, explains this kind of practice as follows:

All experience, waking and dreaming, has an energetic basis. This


vital energy is called lung [rlung] in Tibetan, but is better known in
the West by its Sanskrit name prana [pra~a]. The underlying
structure of any experience is a precise combination of various
conditions and causes. If we are able to recognize its mental,
physical and energetic dynamics, then we can reproduce those
experiences or alter them. This allows us to generate experiences
that support spiritual practices and avoid those that are
detrimental. 81

78 The vital breath as horse and the mind as its rider is a common metaphor in tantric texts, such
as the Mother Tantra.
79 Ma rgyud sangs rgyas rgyud gsum rtsa 'grel, The Three Basic Mother Tantras with Commentaries.
Kuntu Zangpo (Kun tu bzang po) is considered to be the author of the Root Texts, and Milu
Samlek, (Rgyal gshen Mi lus bsam legs) of the Commentaries. Terma (gter ma) rediscovered by
Guru Nontse (Gu ru man rtse) in the eleventh century. Reproduced from original manuscript
belonging to the Samling Monastery (bSam gling) in Dolpo, NW Nepal. Delhi (Dolanji: Bonpo
Monastic Centre, distributor), 1971. And also a later edition: Ma rgyud thugs rje nyi ma'i rgyud skor.
Dolanji, India: Tibetan Bonpo Monastic Community (TBMC). Ed. by Tshultrim Tashi, 1985.
80 Ma rgyud thugs rje nyi ma'i rgyud skor. Ed. by Tshultrim Tashi, 1985, pp. 591-619.
81 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion
Publications, 1998, p. 42. He describes rlung as a "vital energy" here that is also an aspect of
breath. This becomes clearer in his Healing with Form, Energy, and Light, where Tenzin Rinpoche
states:
We can sense prana directly at the grosser levels in the air we breathe. We can
also sense its flow in our bodies. It is at this level, in which prana can be felt both
26

This is the aim of the magical movement's practitioner; he or she wishes to

reproduce and alter experience through physical movements that guide the vital

breath currents, which in turn guides the mind and enables the generation of

specific experiences.

In contrast to Indian styles of yoga in which the practitioner aims to hold a

pose or asana with the body still in that particular posture and the breath flowing

naturally, in magical movement the practitioner holds the breath in the way

indicated in the texts, while the body moves in such a way as to guide that

breath, which in turn guides the mind. The emphasis on the mind being stable

seems to be paramount for all types of yoga; however, the methods, as we will

see, differ. According to Indologist David White, I/[t]he theory here [in hatha

yoga] is simple: Stop this, that stopS."82 In other words, as we stop the body, the

mind stops too. White adds that putting this into practice is not so simple.

From Patafijali and continuing with Gorakhnath and his followers, Indian

yoga texts describe that, by keeping still in a specific body posture (asana), the

in its movement and in its effects, that we work in Tantra. We become sensitive
to and develop the flow of prana using mind, imagination, breathing, posture,
and movement. By guiding the grosser manifestations of prana, we can affect the
subtle levels. As our sensitivity increases, we can directly experience prana in
subtler dimensions. (Tenzin W. Rinpoche, Healing with Form, Energy, and Light,
Ithaca, NY and Boulder, CO: Snow Lion Publications, 2002, p. 77),
I feel this supports my translation of "vital breath currents."
82 David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Sid Traditions in Medieval India, Chicago and
London: Chicago University Press, 1996, p. 274. I had the fortune to take a course on Hindu
27

mind will stop and be stable too. We also see this in many Buddhist and Bon

meditation practices, where the body posture prescribed is a still lotus posture

(rdo rje or g.yung drung skyil krung) as a support to hold the mind stable. In

contrast, with practices such as channels-breaths and magical movement, the

body is in movement, yet the mind is able to remain still. In other words, it is not

a question of 'stopping,' but a quite different principle. Furthermore, as we will

see later on, the movements themselves are seen as a tool or aid to help the mind

be stable. Chinese mind-body practices, such as tai chi and qi gong, share with

magical movement the aspect of combining movement with particular body

postures and maintaining focused attention in the midst of movement. In

contrast to it, though, the breath is not held but rather maintained as naturally as

possible, more like in Indian yogas. 83 In chapter two, I will provide a theoretical

framework as a possible way to understand magical movement and its elements

(channels and vital breath currents) as well as its relation to Indian yo gas and the

ways these were interpreted by western scholars.

According to Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, magical movement should be

used when one's meditation state is unclear, unstable, or weakened in some

Tantra with David White at the time he was writing this book and read previous versions of most
of its chapters with the opportunity to discuss with him and the class.
83 An in-depth analysis of the relationship between the Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan yogas would
be of great value; however, it is outside of the scope of this study. I hope that in the future I can
investigate this further.
28

way.84 That is how early masters from the ZZ Oral Transmission used them,

removing their own obstacles to being able to abide in their meditative state of

mind. 85 These practices help the practitioner, especially from the Dzogchen

perspective, to regain, stabilize, or clarify the meditative state. 86 In this way, by

following instructions for the physical movements prescribed, and at the same

time, holding the breath in the neutral way (rna ning rlung) explained in the texts

that follow, the mind is allowed to rest in its own natural place (rang sa). This

means it is also available to rest or reside in a particular meditative state,

sustained by the breath. Every movement ends with an exhalation accompanied

by the sounds of ha and phat, allowing the practitioner an opportunity to cut

through any concepts that persist and then to remain more completely at rest.

The magical movement yogic exercises from the ZZ Oral Transmission are done

while holding the breath in a neutral way. Holding the breath in this manner

during each exercise allows the breath to pervade (khyab rlung) throughout the

body. Then the forceful exhalation at the end helps induce the meditative or the

84 Personal communication, Charlottesville, Virginia, July 2000.


85 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, personal communication, Saumur, France, June 2005.
86Dzogchen, which was mentioned earlier, is the school of thought and practice that considered
to be the highest among the Nyingma and Bon traditions (see Samten Karmay, The Great
Perfection: A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism, Leiden and New York: E. J.
Brill, 1988).
29

natural state of mind (gnas lugs), which, as we will see, is the aim of Dzogchen

practice more generally.87

Origin of Magical Movement from the ZZ Oral Transmission 88

According to traditional accounts, the ZZ Oral Transmission became a

written text in the 8th century.89 However, I would place its chapter on magical

movement, Quintessential Instructions, around the late eleventh or early twelfth

century. I argue this, based on the fact that the names of the masters mentioned

in that chapter, are from up to the eleventh century. Although it is hard to find

exact dating for some of them, Yangton Chenpo (Yang ston Chen po alias Yang

ston Shes rab rgyal mtshan), the penultimate magical movement master mentioned

in Quintessential Instructions, is said to have "lived [in] the last quarter of the

eleventh century."90

Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak and other exponents of the Bon tradition claim

that these movements existed in earlier centuries within oral teachings as tools

87 Other kinds of holding are also applied, such as the vase retention (pum ba can). This is not so
clear in Quintessential Instructions. Shardza explains them more fully in the Inner Heat chapter
(Thun mong gdum mi'i nyams len ye shes me dpung) in Rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar gyi khrid
gdams skor, ed. by K. Gyatso, Delhi: TBMC, 1974, pp. 551-597.
88 In appendix I, I list and annotate my Tibetan sources for magical movement in the Listening
Transmission. This also includes commentarial works in the Experiential Transmission [of Zhang
Zhung] of the famous 13th century Bonpo master Drugyalwa Yungdrung (Bru rgyal ba G.yung
drung) and Shardza's Commentary and Main Points, where he gives practical guidance on
following the practices of magical movement and inner heat (gtum mo) during a 100-day retreat.
After I describe, in chapter three, the ZZ Oral Transmission's magical movement in accordance to
Quintessential Instructions and Commentary, in chapter four, I include some of my ethnographical
research on how the IOO-day retreat described in Main Points is practiced today by Bonpos in
India and Nepal.
89 See Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, pp. xvii.
30

for dispelling obstacles (gegs sel) and enhancing meditation practices (bog don)

among masters of the ZZ Oral Transmission, although it is difficult to verify this

historically. It would also be interesting to know if and how magical movement

was practiced and even systematized at that time. 91

Magical Movement in Western Translations

No intertextual scholarly works on magical movement, in general, in

English or other Western languages exist, and certainly none about those of the

Bon tradition. However, there are some important precursors to this study that

need to be acknowledged. Thus, I will include them in appendix I. In brief, the

main works relate to Norbu's work on Vairocana's Sun and Moon and various

translations of the famous Six Yo gas or Teachings of Naropa (Naro chos drug,

hereafter Six Yogas). Among the latter, magical movement is not always

included, even in their Tibetan originals. However, the 18th century Gelugpa

90 Ibid, p. xvii. Karmay adds, as supporting evidence for that date, that Yang ton Chenpo had
studied Buddhism from Bari Lotsawa who was born in 1040 c.E.
91 Ponlob Thinley Nyima believes that each magical movement was created when needed or
through an experience that proved positive. As he was telling me this, while sitting in his room at
Menri Monastery, he illustrated his point with an example of resting his head on the arm in a
particular posture, indicating that a master practicing in that way and getting some particular
experiences would write them down later, becoming then a magical movement (Menri
monastery, India, April 2002). Interestingly, the tsakli or "painted cards" of the ZZ Oral
Transmission masters (see appendix IV) portray many of them, even before Pongyal Tsenpo, in
poses other than the seated dkyil dkrungs posture. This makes me suspect that either they were
known to have practiced magical movement or that the painters used their artistic license and
portrayed them in what seemed to them a more "interesting" posture. Yongdzin Rinpoche says it
is clear that some of the early ZZ Oral Transmission masters did practice channels-breaths practice
and magical movement, for example it is clearly stated in the biography of Zhang Zhung
Namgyal (Zhang zhung rNam rgyal), but he also mentioned the possibility of those portrayals
being part of the artist's creativity (Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, Saumur, France, June 2005). In any
31

scholar and commentator of the Six Yogas, Ngulchu Dharmabhadra (Dgul chu

dhar rna bha dra), admits a benefit in practicing them, asserting that "[w]hen they

are performed, there is less chance of problematic side effects arising in the

channels or energies through forceful meditation on the tantric yo gas; and even if

some difficulties do arise, these are mitigated."92

Importance of Orality

In trying to understand these yogic practices we need more than just the

texts. As Buddhologist David Gray argues, "scriptures cannot be adequately

understood if this orality, and the social world that gave rise to it, is not taken

into account."93 This was made clear to me by my work with some of the major

exponents of the living tradition in which these texts are embedded. The oral

instructions are vital for the learning model among Tibetans. As Anne Klein

points out in Path to the Middle, the intersections between the world of the oral

and textual philosophical traditions of Tibet "creates multiple webs and layers of

connections."94 She adds:

Among the most important of these are the links between teacher
and student, which also involve relationships between teacher and
text, student and text, as well as between text and personal
reflection, and which engage students and teachers with a wide

case, it is clear that magical movement was practiced in the ZZ Oral Transmission much earlier
than Pongyal Tsenpo and the other masters mentioned in the magical movement texts.
92 Glenn Mullin, Tsongkhpa's Six Yogas ofNaropa, p. 259, ft. 30.
93 David B. Gray, "Orality, Textuality, and Tantric Buddhist Origins: A Comparative Analysis,"
p. 2, presentation at Rice University, April 21, 2005.
94 Anne Carolyn Klein, Path to the Middle: the Spoken Scholarship of Kensur Yes hey Tupden, New
York: SUNY, 1994, p. xix.
32

variety of other texts cited in the reading, or quotes that simply


come to mind in the course of reflection and conversation. 95

Having benefited greatly from that kind of involvement, where the lama brings

forth "his [her] own analyses developed over a lifetime" and"" .adds to the

reading an aura of kindliness, humor, excitement, or severity, depending on his

demeanor,"96 I could not agree more. The oral explanations I received from the

lamas mentioned in this study certainly were given in warmth, kindliness,

humor, and excitement, with the rigorous philosophical concepts at the heart of

our discussion.

I also follow Klein's inquiry into what it means to read a Tibetan text that

is interwoven with a variety of oral genres, rituals, meditative techniques and

written texts, and how Westerners read or understand it. 97 Klein notes some

important differences between the Tibetan oral tradition and "the 'classical' oral

characteristics noted by Walter Ong."98 Among the genres that Klein cites,99

Shardza's Commentary is mainly a "textual commentary" (gzhung khrid) or an

"explanatory commentary" ('grel bshad), whereas Drugyalwa's is best understood

as "instructions from experience" (myong khrid). In my work with both Geshe

95 Ibid, p. xix.
96 Ibid, p. 5.
97 Ibid, p. 2. For the importance of orality in different religious traditions, as well as his
distinction of 'religious reading' vis a vis 'consumerist reading,' see Paul J. Griffiths, Religious
Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
98 Ibid, p. 4, d. Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London and New
York: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1982), chapter 3.
33

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche on Commentary and with the Menri Abbot Lungtok

Tenpa'i Nyima on Mass of Fire, I also benefited from "'word commentary' (tshig

'greZ), which, as its name suggests, is a commentary on every word of a text."100

My work with Yongdzin Rinpoche and most of my work with Ponlob was in

effect a "commentary on the difficult points" (dga 'greZ) and "instructions on the

explanation" (bshad khrid). And some aspects of my work with all of them fit into

the category of "essential instructions" (dmar khrid) intended to reveal "the heart

of a text."101

IV. Practice and Practical Applications of Magical Movement

Among Bon exile lay and monastic communities, magical movement is

primarily used to develop meditation practice. 102 The movements also strengthen

physical health and emotional stability as a secondary benefit, which is attractive

to monastic and lay practitioners alike. Ponlob Thinley Nyima maintains that, in

addition to using them to enhance their meditative experiences (bogs 'don),

99 Anne Klein, Path to the Middle, pp. 2-4.


100 Ibid, p. 3.
101 Ibid, p. 3. I take this not only in its literal sense of "getting to the red," as Klein suggests, but
also in the lamas opening their heart by pointing to the essential meditative experiences to which
these practices may lead. I feel compelled to acknowledge again my gratefulness to these teachers
for sharing such precious gifts with me.
102 According to my fieldwork data from Bon monasteries of Menri in India and Tritan Norbutse
(Khri brtan nor bu rtse) in Nepal and among their surrounding lay communities. In an interview
with His Holiness Lungtok Tenpa Nyima, abbot of Menri monastery, in February 2002, he
mentioned especially a group of female practitioners and nuns from Shar pa in the Tibetan NE
region of Amdo. Whether and how intensively magical movements are practiced among Bon
monastic and lay communities in Tibet today, has to be clarified through further fieldwork.
34

Tibetan yogis (mal 'byor pa) and accomplished meditators (rtogs ldan) practicing

in caves use magical movements to dispel bodily illness as well as mental and

energetic obstacles (geg sel).103 He notes that these yogis have no access to

hospitals or other health care institutions, so it is through these practices that

they address their physical and mental health. 104 Tibetans often speak more

about the physical effects of these practices. Still, upon further inquiry, most will

affirm that the meditative aspect is most crucial but that magical movement's

uniqueness comes in its utilization of the body.lOS Clearly, enhancing meditative

experiences and dispelling obstacles are two main objectives of magical

movements. And, at least among contemporary teachers, there is also an

emphasis on being able to integrate those meditative experiences into everyday

life or one's daily behavior (spyod pa),l06

103 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, lecture on "Mind-body practices of the ancient Tibetan Bon tradition,"
Rice University, Houston, Texas, June 19, 2002. Although many times written as bgegs, in
Shardza's Commentary this type of "obstacle" or "hindrance" is spelled gegs and in Quintessential
Instructions as gags. Thus far I have not been able to find if there are any significant differences in
meanings among them. It seems that bgegs is utilized more to express obstacles or hindrances
provoked by demons or malignant spirits (bdud, gdon and so forth). Ponlob Thinley Nyima
speaks of gegs sel as the clearing of physical and mental obstacles (that are not necessarily
provoked by other spirits). Yet, at this point this remains as a mere assumption on my side that
needs further investigation.
104 Ibid, June 19,2002.
105 The importance of this will be analyzed in Chapter 2.
106 I am adding the comment "everyday behavior" both from oral teachings of various Bonpo
lamas, including Ponlob Thinley Nyima, and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, and particularly from
the latter's teachings of the chapter on Behavior (Rkyen lam du slang ba rtsal sbyong spyod pa'i khrid)
from the "Experiential Transmission of Zhang Zhung" (Nyams rgyud rgyal ba'i phyag khrid bzhugs
so, edited by Ora rtsa bstan 'dzin dar rgyas, Kathmandu, Nepal: Tritan Norbutse Bonpo
Monastery, 2002), a practice manual that condensed the main practices of the ZZ Oral
Transmission, composed by the thirteenth century scholar and meditator Dru Gyalwa Yungdrung
35

Although mainstream Western medicine has not recognized the

connection between physical illness and energetic or mental obstacles, there are

new paradigms in the emerging field of Complementary and Integrative

Medicine (CIM) that do acknowledge it and are more akin to Asian systems. In

fact, beginning in the 1930's and flourishing especially from the 1970's onward,

"more than a thousand studies of meditation have been reported in English-

language journals, books, and graduate theses."107 Based on the aforementioned

premise and on the several studies on meditation with patient populations, over

the last several years I have expanded my research on these ancient practices to

consider their possible practical and physical applications in a Western setting.

For that purpose, I have given particular attention to the potential benefits of

including magical movement as part of CIM treatments for cancer patients. In

2000, with Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.; Carla Warneke, M.P.H.; Rachel Fouladi, Ph.D.;

and M. Alma Rodriguez, M.D.; at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson

(Bru rgyal ba G.yung drung). A later chapter of the same text includes, in fact, the same magical
movements of Quintessential Instructions (Ibid, pp. 253 - 264).
107 Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body (New York, N.Y.: Penguin Putnam, 1992), p. 538. With
the pioneering works of Swami Kuvalayananda (born J.G. Gune) and Shri Yogendra (born
Manibhai H. Desai) in the 1930s began what anthropologist Joseph Alter calls "medicalised yoga"
(Joseph S. Alter, "Modern Medical Yoga," Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, voLl, No.1,
2005, pp. 119-146). Continuing with the studies on Zen Buddhist monks in the 1960's by Akira
Kasamatsu and Tomio Hirai, and Tibetan monks by Herbert Benson, et. al in the 1970's, many
scientist brought more attention to these practices, labeled in the West under the rubric of
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). In the late 1980's and 1990's, many studies
with Qigong were done with cancer patients in China (See Kevin Chen, and Raphael Yeung,
"Exploratory Studies of Qigong Therapy for Cancer in China," Integrative Cancer Therapies, 1(4);
2002, pp. 345-370). Also around that time, studies were undertaken using Asian mind-body
techniques by and for western populations, spearheaded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, et a1. In Appendix I,
36

Cancer Center of Houston, I conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial to

determine the feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy of magical movements

with cancer patients. For this pilot study, we designed a seven-session program

called "Tibetan Yoga," which included channels-breaths practices from the

Mother Tantra and the preliminary or foundational (sngon 'gro) magical

movement cycle described in Shardza's Commentary. Our hypothesis was that,

through the practice of magical movement together with channels-breaths

practices, patients would be able to alleviate the mental and physical stress

caused by the severe side effects of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or

radiation. Details of the study follow later in chapter four.

As referred to earlier, mainstream Western medicine holds a much more

ironclad division between physical illness and energetic or mental obstacles, and

thus it becomes difficult for most doctors to accept the connection Tibetans see

between the health and meditative benefits, including those of yogic practices.

Part of this difference may arise from the dichotomy between mind and body

that western thought inherited and absorbed from Cartesian dualism. In contrast,

in Eastern thought, a subtle or energetic body or dimension mediates between

mind and body.

These studies are not necessarily done to prove one tradition right and the

other wrong, but rather to prove the efficacy of meditative and yogic techniques

you can find a list of these studies. In chapter 4, I discuss how this field is evolving as we move
37

that exist in some of these centuries-old traditions from the east, although

probably in the form that Alter calls "modern medicalisation" of yoga. lOB I also

find it important to draw attention to a point that Murphy acknowledges, but

that seems to be overlooked or ignored sometimes by scientists: that different

results might be due to "differences between their meditation styles."l09 In other

words, we cannot expect the same results from different meditative techniques,

in the same way that we would not expect the same results from different styles

of psychological therapies or from different physical therapies. Nevertheless,

there are some generalities that do apply to all (or most) of them. To actually

make this statement in a scientific way, we would need to research each one of

them under the same protocol.

These yogic practices provide, in both realms of health and spirituality, a

method of harmonizing the mind and the body by using this energetic

dimension, thus harmonizing what we could call the entire mind-energy-body

system. This concept of harmony was present in the original meaning of the term

yoga. Indologist David White, tracing the first appearances of yoga to the Rg Veda,

in the compound yoga-k?ema meaning "harmonious adjustment," shows

convincingly the link between the Indian medical Ayurvedic concepts of

adjustments, which actually go even beyond the harmonic conjunction of solely

into the 21st century.


lOB Joseph S. Alter, "Modern Medical Yoga," p. 142.
109 M. Murphy, The Future of the Body, p. 351.
38

mind and body. In other words, yoga also includes the harmony of the

individual as microcosm and the world as macrocosm. l1O Furthermore, White

states that the "mediating structure" or "mesocosm" is the subtle body (sii.k~ma

sarira).111 This is analogous to the Tibetan 'adamantine' or 'vajra' body (rda rje Ius

or rda rje sku)-vis a vis the external or "gross body" (lus-rags-pa or just lus).1l2

Thus, by being in touch with this mediating structure and manipulating the

channels, vital breath currents, and essential spheres through the visualization,

breathings, and movements of the channels-breaths practices and magical

movement, the practitioner was believed to be able to affect not only the

microcosm of the mind-energy-body system but even the macrocosm of the

external universe. Although these similar principles did exist in both yoga and

ayurveda, Alter states that yoga was not used as part of ayurveda or as a healing

or medical therapy. Instead, he convincingly argues that "modern yoga as a form

of practice which emphasizes physical fitness, wellness and holistic health,

emerged more directly out of the early twentieth-century yoga renaissance.// 113

However, he also acknowledges that this modern yoga phenomena based on

110 David White, The Alchemical Body, pp. 19-20. Rg Veda (7.86.8i 10.166.5).
111 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. 18.
112 Germano speaks to the "non-optimal and optimal modes of physical existence" also relating
them to the non-honorific term of body (Ius) and honorific (sku) respectively (Dzogchen Mini-
Encyclopedia, p. 653). This differentiation applies in the Nyinmga tradition with which Germano
is working. However, among the Modernists (Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug schools), the optimal
adamantine body is rdo rje Ius instead of rdo rje sku (Kelsang Gyatso, Clear Light of Bliss, London,
England: Wisdom Publications, 1982, pp.19-20ff), although in both cases it refers to the subtle
body composed by channels, vital breaths, and essential spheres. I attempted to explore this
interesting differentiation in an unpublished paper, but it is beyond the scope of this dissertation.
39

"pragmatic, rational [and] scientific principles,"114 was built on, as well as

purged from, its "'other history' of sex, magic, and alchemy."115 In fact, he

claims, "the tension between pragmatic rationalism and esoteric magic makes

yoga powerful." 116 With this in mind, an argument to which we will return in the

upcoming chapters, I believe that research in elM, and especially in yogic

practices, may become one bridge that can build more understanding between

these ancient Asian practices and mainstream Western medicine.

113 Joseph S. Alter, "Modern Medical Yoga," p. 119.


114 Ibid, p. 119.
115 Ibid, p. 119.
116 Ibid, p. 119.
40

Chapter 2. Understanding Bodies

Put briefly, perhaps the entire evolution of the spirit is a question of


the body; it is the history of the development of a higher body that
emerges into our sensibility ... In the long run, it is not a question of
man at all: he is to be overcome (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To
Power),117

I. Theoretical Framework

This chapter aims to provide a theoretical framework as a background to

the Tibetan material. I will offer some brief points that will be further developed

in the explanation of magical movement texts presented in chapter three.

Familiarity with the role of the body and subtle body are critical to the

understanding of magical movement.

Here I suggest connections with material outside the tradition, not as a

systematic comparison, but rather to bring forth some points of contrast in

preparation for a clear look at the Tibetan texts. These materials will come from

other eastern traditions, such as Indian systems of yoga and western

interpretations of eastern thought. My intention is to interweave them to bring

forth a better understanding of magical movement.

Magical movement's uniqueness among Tibetan meditative practices lies

in the use of the body. The body, however, seems to be conceived as a multi-

layered dimension with subtler-than-physical components, sometimes referred


41

to as "subtle body." Using Namkhai Norbu and Kennard Lipman's term

"dimension" to explain these bodies is very suggestive, pointing to the fact that

they encompass aspects beyond the merely physical body. Thus, when we talk of

such a "body," there are other experiential dimensions at play.118 These under-

the-skin dimensions cannot be thought to be merely intellectually

"superimposed upon" the physical body and are perhaps "better [expressed as]

'interposed within' the visible body," as Teun Goudriaan and Sanjukta Gupta

suggest. 119 How does the practitioner reveal, discover, get in-touch or sensitizes

with these other higher or invisible dimensions?

Asceticism and the Body

Many scholars have described asceticism as a "universal phenomenon,"

where the relationship to one's body becomes a central theme. I will draw from

scholars who have used asceticism as a lens through which they analyze spiritual

or mystical searching by people from a variety of religious backgrounds, "East

and West of Jerusalem."120 Tibetologist Robert Thurman points to Walter

117 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Book III, edited by Walter Kauffman, New York:
Random House, 1968, p. 358 (Note 676).
118 Manjushrimitra, Primordial Experience: An Introduction to rDzogs-chen Meditation, tr. by
Namkhai Norbu and Kennard Lipman, Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1983, 1986. David
Germano also finds Norbu and Lipman's rendering of sku as dimension to be "particularly
attractive" (D. Germano, Dzogchen Mini-Encyclopedia, pp. 655).
119 Teun Goudriaan and Sanjukta Gupta, Hindu Tantric and Sakta Literature, (Wiesbaden,
Germany: Harrassowitz, 1981), p. 57.
120 Vincent Wimbush and Richard Valantasis, eds., Asceticism (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1998, rp. 2002). In the introduction to the book, the editors present asceticism as a
"universal phenomenon" (p. xix) and thus group in it forty-two essays from different religious
traditions. I will refer to some of the essays in this volume, since I believe that they can provide
42

Kaelber's article in The Encyclopedia of Religion, stating that "[t]he Greek askesis

relates to 'exercise' and 'training'."121 He compares it to a Greek athlete

"subjecting himself [or herself] to systematic exercise or training in order to

attain a goal of physical fitness."l22 Thurman adds, "[l]ater the idea emerges that

one can train the will, mind, or soul 'systematically and rigorously ... so as to

attain a more virtuous life or a higher spiritual state."'123 He centers his

discussion on Tibetan monastic life as a way of intense ascetic training with the

awareness that the "human form should be used for spiritual evolution."124

John Dillon, although focusing on Platonic thought, presents the two

diverging positions of rejecting, vis Ii vis refining the body, which can be said to

exist across cultures and traditions. 125 Arguably in most religious traditions,

western or eastern, the ascetic movement was best known for the austerities, the

renunciation or rejection of the body. We can see this in St. Theresa de Avila and

St. Augustine in Christianity, as well as the Vedic, Brahmanic, and Jain traditions

in India. We also see this trend in some Buddhist traditions, such as meditations

understandings of the body that may be informative here. My use of "East and West of
Jerusalem" to mean encompassing all religions is a phrase that I owe credit to Andrew Fort, as he
describes teaching Asian traditions as "everything East of Jerusalem" (oral communication
during SW Regional AAR, Dallas, TX, March 2004).
121 Robert A. Thurman, "A Tibetan perspective on Asceticism," in Asceticism, p. 108. He cites
Walter O. Kaelber, "Asceticism," in Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade (New York:
Macmillan, 1987, 1:441-445).
122 Ibid, p. 108.
123 Ibid, p. 108.
124 R. Thurman, "A Tibetan perspective on Asceticism," p. 116.
125 John Dillon's "Rejecting and refining the body," Asceticism, pp. 80-87.
43

on the decay of corpses and impermanence in Theravada126 or the Mahayana

Sutra tradition illustrated in the Bodhicarycwatara.1 27 Rejecting the body stream of

asceticism emphasizes the impure tendency of the body, so the practices lead to a

dismissal of the body in the pursuit of a spiritual "pure" life, detached from the

"defiled" body.

In contrast to this view is the project of refining the body. The lotus flower

is a classic illustration for this in Asia, particularly in the traditions of India,

Tibet, and China. Indian art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy refers to the

somewhat mysterious purity of the lotus that springs from the mud, but is not

soiled by it, and whose leaves, though they rest in the water, are not wetted by

it. 128 This symbolizes the process by which, although we are born with a polluted

and impure body, we can still emerge in a new pure body or dimension, which,

126 See for example Buddhaghosa, Bhadantacariya, The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga),
translated by Bhikkhu
Nyar;tamoli (Berkeley and London: Shambhala Publications, 1976).
127 Santideva, Bodhicaryavatara [Sanskrit and Tibetan], ed. by Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya,
Calcutta, India: The Asiatic Society, 1966. This is especially clear in chapter eight. See Crosby and
Skilton's translation (Santideva, The Bodhicaryavatara, tr. by Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton,
Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996); A Flash Lightning in the Dark of Night (tr.
by the Padmakara Translation Group, Boston and London: Shambhala, 1994), which is an
explanation of it by Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama; and Geshe Kelsang
Gyatso's commentary in Meaningful to Behold (London: Tharpa Publications, 1986). An example
of the view toward the body in this text (using Crosby and Skilton's translation) is:
Why is such an effort made to dress it [the body] like a weapon, for one's own
destruction? The world is a confusion of insane people striving to delude
themselves. (Ch. 8, v. 69.)
128 Ananda Kentish Coomarswamy, both in Yak?as (New Delhi: Munishiram Manoharlal, 1971,
first published, 1928-31), p.57, and in The Origin of the Buddha Image (New Delhi: Munishiram
Manoharlal, 1971), p. 23. This idea is also related to the "divine birth" in the waters by Srl-Lak?ml
in India and, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, of Guru Rinpoche--also called Guru Padmasambhava
(literally, "born from a lotus").
44

like the lotus flower, is itself pristine. This possibility of refining the body has a

sense of process, purification and transformation that is the thrust behind a

spiritual movement called tantra, the ground on which yoga flourishes.

Understanding it as a purification process, it is important to remember not just

the purity of the lotus, but the process it took to come from the muddy waters to

that pure lotus. Jeffrey Kripal writes in another context, I/[p Jut bluntly, there just

is no such thing as a mudless lotuS."129

II. A Brief History of Yoga and Tantra

According to David White, Mircea Eliade was the "greatest modern

'midwife' to historians of religions"130 and most likely, I would add, the one who

delivered the concepts of yoga to this academic field. Here I will use the work of

both Eliade and White as exemplars of two generations of Indologists who have

contributed to the study of yoga in India. 131

129Jeffrey J. Kripal, Psychoanalysis and Hinduism: Thinking Through Each Other, afterword to
T.G. Vaidyanathan and Jeffrey J. Kripal, eds., Vishnu on Freud's Desk: A Reader in Psychoanalysis
and Hinduism (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999),449. He adds,
We need not and should not end with the mud, but we certainly need to at least
begin there .... It is pOintless to deny the muddiness of the mud, but it is equally
silly to deny the beautiful blooming nature of the blossom. Both are aspects of
the flower. Only by accepting both, in dialogue and debate, will we be able to
see a fuller picture (if never the full picture) of that iconic image and begin to
understand its many truths.
130 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. xiii.
131 Certainly by this I do not mean that they are the only ones, but arguably two of the more
influential, each in their respective generation of scholarship.
45

White asserts that the meditative techniques under the large rubric of

yoga, as well as the Ayurveda medical system, arose even before tantrism, as

part of the interactions of the Vedic matrix with Brahmanic and Buddhist

philosophical and mystical traditions.1 32 White adds that I/[t]he organizing

principles of the sixth-century BC[E] teachings of the Buddha on suffering and its

cessation were essentially medical."133 Stating that, for yo gins and alchemists,

"the human self is an exact replica of the macrocosm," White writes that yogic

practices treat the imbalances and diseases "between the bodily microcosm and

the universal macrocosm."l34 This is an appealing argument for this study. In

magical movement, the releasing of physical, energetic, and mental disease and

obstacles allows the vital breath currents to flow better throughout and nurture

the organism at all three levels: body, energy, and mind. Furthermore, practicing

with the intention of including and benefiting all sentient beings, the practitioner

is able to impact the macrocosmic dimension. As the practitioner purifies the

132 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. 19.


133 Ibid, p. 20, d. Robert C. Lester, Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia (Ann Arbor: University
of Michigan Press, 1973), pp. 23- 24, 53; and Caroline A.F. Rhys-Davids, "Original Buddhism and
Amrta," Melanges chino is et buddhiques [Brusselsl6 (1938-39), p. 378.
134 David White, The Alchemical Body, pp. 20-21. However, in his very recent Yoga in Modern India,
anthropologist Joseph Alter argues that the "medicalization" of yoga may be a product of
"postcolonialism and global modernity" (Joseph Alter, Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between
Science and Philosophy, Princeton, NJ, and Oxford, England: Princeton University Press, 2004, p.
10). Although I agree with him in the context of modern medicine, I believe that White's
arguments in showing the connections between yoga and ayurveda are compelling. The study of
yoga and medicine is a fascinating emerging subfield, but here I will only address it as it impacts
magical movements and medicine, as we will see in chapter 4.
134 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 20, d. Jean Filliozat, "Les mechanisms psychiques d'apres les
texts de yoga," Annuaire du College de France (Paris: 1970-71), p. 416.
46

"inner mafl~ala," s/he affects (and is affected by) the external mat:t<;iala: the whole

universe. White affirms that the Upani~ads of the fourth and third century BeE

began "charting the yogic body" and that the practice of yoga is done to achieve

experiences beyond the reasoning mind. 135

White speaks of the importance the traditions placed in the experiences

obtained from such practices and, at the same time, the "long period of

discipleship" to obtain them.136 Identifying himself as a "westerner in a hurry,"

although briefly "schooled" in hatha yoga and alchemical practices, he clearly

states that his research is solely textual.137 White also acknowledges that "the all-

important chain of transmission of oral tradition has long since been broken"138

in many of the texts on which his study is based. I, on the other hand, am

working with a tradition that claims to have an unbroken lineage and, as Per

Kvaerne asserts, "is practiced to this day by Tibetan adepts."139 Having interest

in both the textual and the experiential, I feel that one can help inform the other. I

hope to bring this aspect forth as this study unfolds. However, I do not claim that

this is the only way of looking at this kind of texts and traditions. In fact, I agree

with White when he writes:

135 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 20.


136 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. xi.
137 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. xi.
138 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. xii.
139 Per Kvaerne, "'The Great Perfection' in the Tradition of the B6npos," in Early Ch'an in China
and Tibet, p. 367.
47

Ultimate reality is beyond my reach, either to experience or


express. I nonetheless hope that these pages may serve to bridge a
certain gap between raw experience and synthetic description, and
thereby contribute to an ongoing tradition of cultural exchange that
is at least as old as the Silk Road. 140

Nevertheless, it seems clear that these yogic practices are not seen as mere

exercise or performance, like gymnastics and ballet are seen in the West. In effect,

Eliade asserts that, from the post-Vedic period, yoga was defined as "the means

of attaining Being, the effectual techniques for gaining liberation."141 He

emphasizes that body perfection in the yogic practices certainly does not refer to

being perfect in athletic gymnastics or hygiene of the body, but rather to the

perfection of the emerging subtle body.142

The inception of the tantric movement began around the fourth century

BeE, and reached its apogee, in India and Tibet, in the eighth. The body takes

primary importance in this movement, with the specific esoteric goal of attaining

liberation or 'enlightenment' (byang chub, moksa) by means of enabling vital

breath currents to flow and unblock obstacles or interruptions to that

enlightenment. It is also important to note that the Tibetan spiritual practices,

whether sutra or tantra, are part of the great vehicle (theg pa chen po, mahayana).

Thus, they are practiced with the motivation and intention that the

140 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. x.


141 M. Eliade, Yoga, p.3.
48

enlightenment is not just for the practitioner, but extends to liberate all sentient

beings. This is called developing an altruistic mind intent on enlightenment (serns

skyed, bodhicitta). In this sense, enlightenment affects the whole universe.

On the origins or roots of tantra, White writes:

Indian tantrism, in its Hindu, Buddhist and Jain varieties, did not
emerge out of a void. It was on the one hand influenced by cultural
interactions with China, Tibet, central Asia, Persia, and Europe,
interactions which had the Silk Road and medieval maritime roues
and ports as their venue. Much more important, however, were the
indigenous Indian roots of tantrism, which was not so much a
departure from earlier forms of Hinduism as their continuation,
albeit in sometimes tangential and heterodox ways.143

Tantra, as Eliade remarks, was a pan-Asian movement influenced by the local

religious tradition and culture, as well as by Persia and Europe (mostly Greece)

through the trade routes. White finds Indian tantra to mark a clear shift and

departure from the orthodox and Brahmanic forms of what is now called

Hinduism. He defines Tantra as follows:

Tantra is the Asian body of beliefs and practices which, working


from the principle that the universe we experience is nothing other
than the concrete manifestation of the divine energy of the godhead
that creates and maintains that universe, seeks to ritually
appropriate and channel that energy, within the human microcosm,
in creative and emancipatory waYS.l44

142 Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954
(rp. 1990), p. 230, d., Haphayoga Pradlpikti, II, 22.
143 David White, The Alchemical Body, p. 2. White makes clear that he will use "Tantra" as the
written work, "tantrism" as the religious phenomenon, and "tantric" as an adjective to the former
such as "tantric ritual" (p. 354, footnote 3). I will follow his advice throughout this work.
144 David Gordon White, editor, The Practice of Tantra: A Reader (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2000), Introduction, p.9.
49

Taoist practices and early alchemy in India and China had the immortality of the

body as their goal. However, the aim of enlightenment was not emphasized, and

their methods seem to agree more with what White considers "external

alchemy," vis a vis the inner alchemy which incorporated the use of the subtle
body. Throughout The Alchemical Body, White shows the links of hatha yoga and

alchemy. He shows how many of the yogis practiced both and states that the

alchemy was more of an external practice and hatha yoga more internal.

Buddhism, he claims, did not incorporate alchemical practice or they

disappeared early on, but maintained the yoga and the channels-breaths, which

could also be said to be an internal form of alchemy.145

"Perfecting the body," "the body as a temple," and even the

"immortality" of the inner or subtle body are seen as part of the know-how of

enlightenment. Yoga becomes one of the most evident examples of it within the

tantric movement, in which the yogi makes the body the locus and tool for the

liberation of itself. This is clearly consistent with Dillon's "refining the body."146

The chartings of the internal landscapes of the subtle body and its dynamics are

brought to the foreground, and, at the time of death, it is said that the gross body

is left behind as if it were an external shell, allowing the subtle, or more luminous

145 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 71, and p. 78.


146 M. Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, pp. 200-201.
50

body to continue.1 47 In the Dzogchen tradition, the final sign of spiritual

achievement is called "rainbow body" ('ja Ius), allegedly achieved by many

masters of the ZZ Oral Transmission. 148 Like the snake leaving its slough, the

yogic practitioner "must create a 'new body' for himself [and] be 'reborn,' as in

other initiations, after being 'dead."'149 This new body, the subtle body or

dimension, is the loci for the yogic training. Many tantric practices, such as the

well-known "purification of Vajrasattva," are classic examples of this in the

Tibetan tradition.1 5o Frances Garret also points out in her dissertation that, when

one dies and leaves the gross body behind, the subtle body is "necessary as the

physical support of an individual's buddhi [enlightened nature] during the

interval between death and rebirth."151

This subtle body that is able to carry one's enlightened nature is a

"workable" dimension, which, through certain askesis or training, can be

systematically and rigorously manipulated with the different esoteric practices

147 For more information, see "The Theory of The Rainbow Body" section in Samten Karmay, The
Great Perfection, pp. 190 -196.
148 See for example" An Eyewitness Account of a Rainbow Body," in Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen,
Heartdrops of Dharmakaya (commentary by Lopon Tenzin Namdak, ed. By Richard Dixey, Ithaca,
NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1993), pp. 135-137.
149 Ibid, p. 165.
150 See Khetsun San gpo, Tantric Practices in Nyingma, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1986,
pp. 141 - 153. For other tantric practices using the subtle body, see Stephen Beyer, The Cult of
Tara, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, University of California Press, 1978, Daniel Cozort,
Highest Yoga Tantra: An Introduction to the Esoteric Buddhism of Tibet (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion
Publications, 1986), H.H. the Dalai Lama, Tsong-ka-pa, and Jeffrey Hopkins, Tantra In Tibet,
Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1977, and Deity Yoga, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications,
1981 (rp. from The yoga of Tibet, London: George Allen Unwin, Ltd., 1976), among others.
151 Frances Garret, "Narratives of embryology: becoming human in Tibetan literature," p. 5, d.
Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 2, 316.
51

that use the subtle body, such as channels-breaths practices and magical

movement. Different practices exercise the subtle body's inner breath currents in

different ways, revealing different dynamics. I will present how these are

portrayed in Indian yoga and will argue that other dynamics are also at work in

magical movement.

Indian Yoga

Patafijali is usually considered the father of "classic" yoga philosophy

expounded in the renowned yogasutras, which are placed, not undisputedly,

around the second century BCE to third century CE152 Interestingly, in Patafijali's

system, no asanas or body postures other than the seated lotus posture

(padmasana) and modifications of it were included. Gorakhnath is actually

credited as the founder of hatha yoga. He is the assumed author of the no longer

extant Goraksa Samitta, which contains references to hatha yoga and where asanas

beyond the lotus posture are included. 153 Gorakhnath is said to have lived in the

12th to 13th centuries, although "Matsyendra, his purported guru, could not

have lived later than the 10th century."154 Their followers used their name,

Kanphatas, to designate their particular discipline of practice; however, "the

term soon came to be the collective designation for the traditional formulas and

152 M. Eliade, Yoga, pp. 4 - 9. Others, such as Alter, place Patanjali's system "around the second
or third century of this era" (J. Alter, Yoga in Modern India, p. 4), and D. White places him in the
third century CE (personal communication, April 2005).
153 See J. Alter, Yoga in Modern India, p121, and D. White, The Alchemical Body, p.141.
154 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 85, also see M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 228.
52

disciplines that made [it] possible to attain perfect mastery of the body."155

Svatmarama's 15th-century Hathayogapradipika is the oldest extant treatise that is

believed to be based on Gorakhnath's Hatha Yoga, and both White and Eliade

find it influenced by Buddhism, especially by the Middle Way school (Dbu rna,

Madhyamika ).156

Patanjali's definition of yoga in the Yogasutras as "preventing thought

from going around in circles"157 also places the focus more on the mind than on

the body; it describes a state of concentration of the mind similar to calm abiding

(zhi gnas, shamata), which could be considered the first step towards resting in the

natural state. 158 In fact, Norbu makes a distinction between Patanjali's system of

yoga and what he (i.e., Norbu) calls the use of the kU1J~alini in yoga, which we

can comfortably say, after reading Eliade and White, comes from Gorakhnath's

tradition. 159 Norbu clearly associates magical movement more with the latter. In

other words, Norbu sees Patafijali's yoga as a dual system 'rejecting the body'

similar to the Hinayana and Mahayana sutra systems approach, where the body

is considered impure, and the yogin is urged to focus on the mind toward "the

155 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 229. Also see George Weston Briggs, Gorakhnath and the Kcmphata YogIs
(Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1973).
156 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 229.
157 Patafijali, Yogasutras, second verse, in David White, The Alchemical Body, p. 273.
158 See Elizabeth De Michelis, A History of Modern Yoga (London and New York: Continuum,
2004), where she traces the history of what she calls "Postural Yoga" in distinction to the
categories "Modern Psychosomatic Yoga," "Modern Meditational Yoga," and "Modern
Denominational Yoga."
159 Norbu's equates kU1J.~alinl to bindu (Tib. thig Ie), see N. Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light,
pp. 89 and 91.
53

complete cessation [of] mental activity in a state of union with the absolute."160

On the other hand, magical movement is more like the hafha yoga of Gorakhnath;

it is a tantric path that involves the body with a more active engagement,

utilizing the potency of the triad of body, energy (in this case as breath) and

mind.

Mind-Energy-Body in Tibet

Tibetologists Anne Klein, David Germano and Robert Thurman provide

some background on how the triad of body, breath, and mind is expressed in the

context of Tibetan spiritual practices. In Meeting the Great Bliss Queen, Klein states

that, although different Buddhist traditions define the mind in different ways,

"the human mind is explicitly located in a body and affected by it."161 She writes

that this conception of the "body" need not be limited to the gross form of flesh,

blood and bones like we think in the west. There are also subtle forms of bodies,

and the subtle consciousness rides out of the body on the vital breath currents, as

was mentioned above. Emphasizing the importance of embodiment in

meditative practices, Klein asserts that "consciousness is always associated with

a kind of physicality [i.e., body]" and adds that "[t]he more esoteric traditions

also teach a variety of physical postures to enhance particular meditation

practices."162

160 N. Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, p. 85.


161 Anne C. Klein, Meeting the Great Bliss Queen, Boston: Beacon Press, 1995, p. 70.
162 Ibid, p. 71.
54

As mentioned in the first chapter, body, energy and mind are the doors to

enlightenment, which in this light can be understood as modes of training one's

spirituality. Thurman rightly points out that these practitioners' training in the

three doors consists of a "withdrawal of energy from habit patterns, and

reinvestment of that energy in new patterns of ritual design."163 Thurman

exemplifies this with the practice of prostrations, which is one of the most

popular forms of body practices among Tibetans in general. Although

prostrations seem to center on a training of the body, they also include speech

through a mantra recitation or invocation and mind by focusing on a

visualization of an enlightened being(s). In other words, prostration can be said

to be the body part of this integral practice that includes speech and mind,

usually called" going for refuge" (skyabs 'gro) and used in all Tibetan Buddhist

and Bon traditions. The purported benefits are the purification of body, energy

and mind along with receiving blessings from the enlightened beings.

Among the usually rendered 84,000 meditative practices within the

Tibetan traditions,l64 some have more of a predominance over the body, some

more over speech or energy, and some more over mind. Writing about the

163 Ibid, p. 116.


164 84,000 seems to be a commonly agreed upon number by Tibetan teachers. From the idea that
sentient beings have 84,000 defilements (gro ba thams cad kyi nyon mongs pa brgyad khri bzhi stong),
there are 84,000 teachings (brgyad khri bzhi stong gi chos or chos kyi phung po brgyad khri bzhi stong)
that overcome those defilements. These are sometimes called the 84,000 doors or gates of dharma
(here taking the meaning of teachings, chos kyi sgo mo brgyad khri bzhi stong) and illustrated too as
55

foundational practices (sngon 'gro) that are common to almost all Tibetan

spiritual traditions-and especially important in the Dzogchen school of thought-,

Klein says that these practices" are ways to bring body, speech and mind into

increasing harmony with the 'great expanse' talked about in the Dzogchen

teachings."165 All three components are always there, as in the example of the

going for refuge practice. Here we are more concerned with those of the body.

Besides the prostration practice, there are the circumambulations, pilgrimages

and, of course, the yogic practices.

I think it is important to highlight a few of Thurman's earlier points. One

is the understanding that "human form should be used for spiritual evolution,"

which is also clear in basic Buddhist and Bon teachings that emphasize the

fortune of having a human existence and so the importance to use it wisely (i.e.,

for spiritual practice). A second point is that it is important to change our

habitual patterns into the "reinvestment of that energy in new patterns of ritual

design," such as prostration, circumambulation, prayers, sacred dance, yoga and

so forth, in order to evolve spiritually,166 Clearly magical movement is one of

the 84,000 sections or spokes of the wheel of dharma (chos kyi phung po brgyad khri bzhi stong gi
'khor 10). For these references, see Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary, record 6530.
165 Anne Klein, "Fully engaged in Body, Speech, and Mind." Buddhdharma: The Practitioner's
Quarterly, Winter 2003.
166 I would not totally reject the idea that physical exercise is present in yoga too, especially its
modern development both in modern India and in the West. However, I would argue that, for
the yogin, it is considered a secondary benefit of the practice, not the raison d'etre. The recent
works of Joe Alter and Elizabeth De Michelis, already cited, mention how modern yoga, even in
India and not solely in the West, have emphasized the physicality of yoga and the idea that this is
"thought to be the product of Western 'perversion' and misunderstanding" is too simplistic. As
56

those practices that include the use of physical body to develop meditation

practice. As Tenzin Rinpoche states:

In particular, trul khor serves as an aid to meditation practice, a


gateway to a more clear, open, and stable experience of abiding in
the natural state of mind. Through integrating vigorous physical
movement with mental concentration and awareness of the breath,
the trul khor exercises unblock and open the flow of vital energy, or
prana, within specific areas of the body. 167

Therefore, by manipulating the channels and vital breath currents of one's subtle

body, the practitioner can open the flow of the vital breath permeating both to

the gross body and the mind and is eventually able to experience and abide in

the natural state of mind. That is the aim of yoga (rna I 'byor), states Namkhai

Norbu.1 68 In other words, magical movement helps dispel blockages or obstacles,

and, as it will become clear as we analyze those of ZZ Oral Transmission, resting

or abiding in the natural state of mind is a crucial component of the practice.

Germano explains the link Norbu is referring to between yoga and natural state

Alter affirms, "things are much more complicated and interesting than this" (both quotes in
Joseph Alter, Yoga in Modern India, p. 10. See also Elizabeth De Michelis, A History of Modern
Yoga).
167 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in his unfinished work on Tibetan tantric practices of body, speech
and mind.
168 Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, Ed. by John Shane, New York and
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 85. In his upcoming book on magical movement, the
translator Adriano Clemente says that Sun and Moon includes descriptions of seventy-five yoga
postures, "each of which correspond to a[n] asana [posture] in the Hindu Hatha Yoga tradition,
yet it [i.e., Vairocana's text] predates all known relevant Hindu texts" (Yantra Yoga: The Tibetan
Yoga of Movement, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, forthcoming 2005, foreword).
57

in the Dzogchen context: "[t]he etymology of rNal 'Byor is 'tuning into' ('Byor)

naturalness (rNal)," or "'linking up to' ('Byor) a pristine innate state (rNal ma)."169

Buddha Nature

The Buddhist concept of "Buddha-nature" (de bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po,

tatagathagarbha), which maintains that all beings have a pristine innate state, is

clearly the underlying principle here. In that light, every sentient being

possesses Buddha-nature. These yogic or other esoteric practices are the methods

(thabs, upaya) that allow the practitioner to connect to his/her Buddha-nature's

latent wisdom or insight (shes rab, prajna). Philosophically, and similar also to

Chinese Ch'an, Dzogchen's discovery of one's own nature of mind is based on

the concept of Buddha-nature theory. However, because that nature is veiled,

one needs to discover it. In order to discover or uncover that enlightened nature,

the practitioner applies one of the 84,000 methods. Method and wisdom are

described as the two wings of a mythical bird (khyung, garuda) that are needed to

fly and thus be back in touch, or re-discover, that enlightened state of mind that

is said to be present all along. 170

169D. Germano, Dzogchen Mini-Encyclopedia, p. 720.


170 David Jackson examines animal images used that exemplify this approach in Indian, Chinese
and Tibetan texts, including that of the garuda in David Jackson's "Birds in the Egg and Newborn
Lion Cubs: Metaphors for the Potentialities and Limitation of "AU-at-once" Enlightenmentl/(in
Tibetan Studies, Proceedings of the 5th seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Narita,
Japan, 1989, rp. 1992, pp. 95-114). Thanks to Sigrid Pietsch for directing me to this article.
58

David Germano explains how the Dzogchen metaphor, the "Youthful

Body in a Vase" (gzhon nu bum pa'i SkU),171 is a development of the Buddha-

nature theory. He states that the youthfulness (gzhon nu) of that dimension

connotes its primordiality and readiness to emerge,172 In that way, the

enlightened quality or the natural state of mind that is present in all sentient

beings is always pristine and ready to be awakened, and its mediating structure

is the subtle body or dimension. Germano states, "[d]espite being fully present it

[i.e., the subtle dimension] is invisible to the outside."173

This invisible structure of the subtle dimension that enables the

transformation is said to be immortal, in contrast to our mortal physical body.

Nevertheless, one can use this dimension(s) and influence both the external body

and the mind.

III. The Landscapes of the Subtle Dimension(s)

Anthropologist Geoffrey Samuel rightly states:

The subtle body has been one of the hardest concepts in Buddhist
and Hindu thought for Westerners to appreciate, perhaps because

171 David Germano, Mini-Encyclopedia of Dzogchen, p. 720. Also see Ranjung Yeshe on line
Tibetan-English Dictionary, entry 65310.
172 David Germano, Mini-Encyclopedia of Dzogchen, p. 720.
173 David Germano, Mini-Encyclopedia of Dzogchen, p. 655. Germano recounts how the image of
the body concealed within a vase is related to the frequent image of a butter lamp placed within a
vase or doll in such a way that "its light is not apparent from the outside, yet nevertheless is
luminously present within the depths of the vase's interiority that gives the vase a inner
luminosity or glow, just as this Gnostic energy [i.e., his translation for ye shes] is always already
fully present within the Universe's ultimate quintessence, despite not being externally apparent"
(Ibid, p. 720).
59

it implies a lack of separation between 'body' and 'mind,' which


Western science and medicine has had difficulty in accepting.174

He adds that the introduction and acceptance of medicine from Asia,

biofeedback and measurable experiments of inner heat "demonstrate the mind-

body linkage in a form accessible to Western science, [and thus] the subtle body

is beginning to make more sense."175 One of Samuel's students, Elisabeth

Stutchbery, did an interesting study with the aim of creating an "epistemic

status" for these practices that she terms "technologies of consciousness."176

Stutchbury's aim of finding an epistemological discourse for these practices is, in

part, my aim in this section as well.

Edith Wyschogrod, although from a different context, writes that episteme

involves looking for "both a conceptual backdrop and an enabling mechanism"

to describe a set of practices. l77 Therefore, applying it to magical movement

requires a basic understanding of the subtle body since it is an important part in

the conceptual backdrop and in the enabling mechanism of magical movement.

174 Geoffrey Samuel, Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies, Washington and London:
Smithonian Institution Press, 1993, p.237.
175 Ibid, p. 237. As for the inner heat experiment, Samuel refers to Benson and Hopkins, 1982,
mentioned in the introduction.
176 Elisabeth A. Stutchbury, "Tibetan Meditation, Yoga and Healing practices: Mind-Body
Interconnections," The Embodiment of Mind: Eastern and Western Perspectives, ed. M.M. Del Monte,
& Y. Haruki, Delft, Holland: Eburon Publishers, 1998, pp. 103ff. Her study focused on the Six
Yogas of Naropa, from her field research on how they were practiced in Apo Rinpoche Gonpa (A
pho rin po che dgon pa) in Manali, India, during 1986 and 1992.
177 Edith Wyschogrod, "The Howl of Oedipus, the Cry of Heloise: From Asceticism to
Postmodern Ethics," Asceticism, p. 16.
60

The subtle body can be seen as a vessel through which transformation

may occur. It is the internal dimension that allows the practitioner to travel on

the path to enlightenment. The idea of subtle body or other deeper dimensions

within our gross or external body is a concept also known outside the tantric

realm. In some shamanic cultures, this subtle dimension is described as "a thin

unsubstantial human image, in its nature a sort of vapor, film or

shadow .... mostly impalpable and invisible, yet also manifesting physical

power."178 Among the Igluik Eskimos, there is the belief that "[o]ur flesh and

blood, our body, is nothing but an envelope about our vital power."179 The idea

of the body as an envelope can be interpreted as our external body being a mere

shell, protecting, but also concealing, the dimensions of our subtle body (or

bodies). Stutchbury contends that, although it is difficult to find correspondences

of the subtle body elements (channels and vital breath currents) with

biomedicine, "different systems of advanced inner yoga meditation [i.e., her

translation of rtsa rlung] manufacture and employ different structures,

suggesting that the potentiality for creating these pathways exists."180 Stutchbury

rightly proposes that these elements arise or are perceived by the yogin through

178 Edward Tyler, "Primitive Culture," 1871, quoted in Holger Kalweit, Dreamtime and Inner Space
(Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 1988), p.2l.
179 Ikinilik, an Utkuhikjaling Eskimo, Knud Rasmussen, "Intellectual Culture of the Igluik
Eskimos," Vol. VII, No.1, p. 6, Copenhagen 1930, quoted in Holger Kalweit, Dreamtime and Inner,
p.2l.
180 Elizabeth A. Stutchbury, "Tibetan Meditation, Yoga and Healing Practices: Mind-Body
Interconnections," p.11S.
61

specific methods of practice, including those discussed here, which she terms

"technologies of consciousness."181 Thinking of these methods as technologies of

consciousness bears some resemblance with Clarke's earlier quote, and it might

be yet another way to reconcile the magical movement as a machine, or the

mind-body technology as a magical and/or mystical movement, where the

mind-body technology can bring magical and mystical results to the practitioner.

Intrigued also by the mechanisms of these technologies of consciousness,

for centuries Tibetans also investigated this kind of correspondence between the

tantric vista and medical knowledge. Frances Garrett looks into the presentations

of the subtle body structure in the Tibetan medical system-especially as

portrayed in the famous twelfth century Tibetan medical treatise Four Tantras

(Rgyud bzhi)-and in various religious tantras, reporting that "Tibetan medical

scholars, for several centuries to present date, have been concerned with

reconciling the two systems [medical and religious] to some extent."182 Garret

mentions how some important religious masters, such as Drapa Gyaltsen (Crags

pa rgyal mtshan) from the Sakya school, wrote on the importance of religious

181 Ibid, p.115.


182 Frances Garret, "Narratives of embryology: becoming human in Tibetan literature," p. 56.
Janet Gyatso writes in detail about this debate in "The Authority of Empiricms and the
Empiricism of Authority: Medicine and Buddhism in Tibet on the Eve of Modernity," Comparative
Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 24 (1), 2004, pp. 2 ff. I would like to thank Janet
Gyatso for sharing her article.
62

practitioners knowing the body and the subtle physiology as "the basis for

meditation practice. "183

With a provocative illustration, Drapa Gyaltsen claims that "[a]ttempting

contemplative practices without clear understanding of the body .. .is like trying

to milk an animal by tugging at its horns."I84 Still, "in the dialog between Tibetan

medical and religious traditions over the centuries, the very existence of these

three channels is questioned."185 In other words, it is clear that one does not see

these channels when a body is cut open. Nevertheless, there are numerous

meditative practices that use and describe with incredible detail these channels

and their energetic centers. How is one suppose to understand them? Perhaps

the mundus imaginalis that the French philosopher Henry Corbin describes in the

context of Iranian philosophy might be useful.1 86 His concept of the imaginal is a

mediating universe between the pure intellectual world and the empirical world

perceived by the senses,187 Making a comparison with the 16th century Swiss

physician and natural philosopher Paracelsus' notion of imaginatio vera

("imagination in the true sense") vis a vis "phantasy," Corbin also differentiates

183 Frances Garret, "Narratives of embryology: becoming human in Tibetan literature," Draft, p.
56.
184 Ibid, p. 56.
185 Ibid, p. 57. See also Janet Gyatso's article mentioned above and Garret and Vinca nne Adams,
"The Three Channels in Tibetan Medicine," Traditional South Asian Medicine, forthcoming 2005, p.
6. I am grateful to Frances Garret for sharing this article.
186 Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shi'ite Iran, (translated by
Nancy Pearson. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977). I am grateful to Jeffrey Kripal
for pointing me to Corbin's work.
187 Ibid, pp. vii-xii.
63

the imaginal from fantasy, which is usually perceived as equivalent to the

unreal.1 88 Furthermore, Corbin affirms that this imaginative power "is the

formative power of the subtle body or imaginal body."189

There are different kinds of subtle body presentations not only among

Tibetans, but also among Indian and Chinese presentations. 190 Samuel proposes

that different descriptions are valid in their own context, providing their own

maps towards enlightenment. This could be similar to the validity of the various

schools of Western psychology, which present different models that serve

different groups of people. In other words, each tradition's methods or

"technology of consciousness" might draw different maps and still not pose a

problem. Actually, Samuel asserts that Tibetans "are aware that there are

significant discrepancies between the descriptions in different traditions .... the

co-existence of apparently irreconcilable descriptions in and of itself is not seen

as a problem. Each description is valid in its own context."191 Thus, these

188 Ibid, p. ix. Philippus Aurelous Paracelsus (1493-1541, born Theophrastus Bombastus von
Hohenheim) was a physician, chemist, alchemist, and considered one of the fathers of modern
medicine. For more information on Paracelsus, see, among others, Paracelsus: Essential Readings
(Selected and Translated by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books,
1999).
189 Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, p. x.
190 We have mentioned already some of the Indian. Among Chinese, White asserts that there are
Taoist sources as early as the fourth century, such as the Taishang suling dayou miaojing (D. White,
The Alchemical Body, p. 250). Eliade also mentions early Chinese sources, although they are more
related to alchemy (M. Eliade, Yoga, pp. 284 - 292).
191 Geoffrey Samuel, "The Body in Buddhist and Hindu Tantra," Religion Vol. 19, July 1989, p.
201. Samuel cites as references for his statement Daniel Cozort, Highest Yoga Tantra, pp. 115f£) and
Keith Downman, Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of Lady Yeshe Tsogyel (London: Routledge,
Kegan Paul, 1984, p. 247).
64

technologies of consciousness, such as meditative techniques, channels-breaths

practice, or magical movement, are the means or methods that allow the

practitioner to connect with one's own Buddha nature within the landscape of

his/her subtle body dimension.

Although all traditions do not necessarily agree on all the details of the

subtle dimension(s), there is a consistent description of the principal three

channels of the subtle body in the Indian and Tibetan tantric literature. These

descriptions sometimes mention five, six or seven main energetic centers or

wheels (khor la, cakra) organized along the central channel. 192

Elements of the Subtle Dimension(s)

i. Channels (rtsa, nttdz)

The general agreement in Hindu and Buddhist subtle body descriptions is

that there are three channels of utmost importance: a 'central channel' (bdu rna,

sUfumntt), or 'all-encompassing' channel (kun 'dar rna, a va dha ti)193 sometimes

192 White maintains that in Indian texts it is said to derive from the six-cakra Indian subtle body
writings, earlier expressed in Matsyendranath's Kaulajftcmanirflaya, the Western Transmission
Kubjikamata and Bhavabhuti's Malati Madhava (D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 134). In Buddhist
texts, the earlier seems to be the ca. eighth-century Guyasamaja Tantra (see Alex Wayman, Yoga of
the Guyasamajatantra: The Arcane Lore of Forty Verses, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1977, pp. 163-73),
although it speaks of four energetic centers (D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 422, footnote 8). In
Bon, the earlier text seems to be the Mother Tantra, rediscovered in the eleventh century by Guru
Nontse (Gu ru rnon rtse) (see D. Martin, Mandala Cosmogony: Human Body Good Thought and the
Revelation of the Secret Mother Tantras of Bon, Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1994, p.
28 ff., and Samten Karmay, A Catalogue of Bonpo Publications, Tokyo, Japan: The Toyo Bunko, 1977
p. 20), where in some cases five energetic centers are mentioned and in other parts six (see Tenzin
Wangyal Rinpoche, Healing with Form, Energy, and Ligtht, Ithaca, NY and Boulder, CO: Snow Lion
Publications, 2002, pp. 93 - 110).
193 David Germano says that "there appears to be some question as to the original linguistic
source of kun 'dar ma (or at least for the syllable 'Dar), and in Great Perfection writings a
65

known as the "Royal Road,"194 flanked on the right by the white-colored

"solitary" channel (rkyang rna, pi1igala), and flanked on the left by the red- colored

"flavor" (ra rna, icJ-a ). All begin from the same point, which is a four-finger width

below the navel. 195 Most Hindu and Buddhist tantric contemplative systems aim

to bring the energies of both secondary channels into the central one.

Guenther, translating the famous 14th-century Nyingma scholar and

meditator Longchenpa (Klang chen pa or Klang chen rab 'byams), describes the

channels as being "responsible for the differentiation into right and left, male and

female, body and mind, not so much as irreconcilable opposites but as

complementary, interacting facets of an all-pervading flow of life."196 He adds:

outwardly [the 3-channel structure] sets up the triad of body,


speech, and (ego)mind; inwardly the triad of existentiality,
communication, and spirituality; and mystically the triad of the
founding strata of meaning which become embodied as concrete
bearers of meaning, of world horizons, and of meaning in an
ultimate sense; this triad stands there straight like pillars. 197

distinction between how these two terms are used, although whether a distinct reference is
entailed is debatable" (D. Germano, "Dzogchen Mini-Encyclopedia, p. 651). It seems that the a va
dha tl might refer to the spinal chord, and the Tibetan term might express the vitality aspect of the
central channel. As we saw from the medical and religious discussions on the channels portrayed
by Garret, this is a complicated and unresolved issue at this time, and so we will, until further
clarification, use them as translations of each other.
194 Arthur Avalon, The Serpent Power, p. 111.
195 HH Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima, remarked that it is actually four times the width of the middle
finger not four-finger width from the pinky to the index (Menri, oral communication, 2002)
196 Longchenpa, Kindly Bent To Ease Us, Part 2, Tr. by Herbert Guenther (Berkeley, California:
Dharma Publishing, 1975), p. 19.
197 Longchenpa, Theg-pa'i mchog rin-po-che'i mdzod, I, p. 535, in Longchenpa, Kindly Bent To Ease
Us, Part 2, p. 19.
66

These channels are not as static as they might seem at first impression. They can

be conceived as made of light and as flexible, so that when vital breath travels

through them they inflate like a balloon. 198 Guenther's description portrays the

ample significance and the vibrant potential of this subtle dimension as a

structure that supports various levels of understanding that lead to the

realization or enlightenment.

Shardza's Mass of Fire classifies the white right channel as that of method

(thabs), the red left channel as that of wisdom or insight (shes rab), and the central

as the channel of enlightenment (byang chub).199 The same text emphasizes that

the union of method and insight brings forth enlightenment or that, through the

methods and insight, one can discover or allow the enlightened nature to

manifest. This understanding helps internalize the subtle differences in quality

that the vital breath currents have as they circulate through the different

channels. Shardza also asserts the need to bring them into the central channel,20o

In terms of structure, although sometimes the secondary channels are

described as parallel to the central channel, and at other times the secondary

channels intertwine around the central one, most of the Tibetan systems follow

198 H.H. Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima mentioned how Tibetans would traditionally use the metaphor
of intestines (rgyu ma) as channels, but the balloon metaphor may seem more appropriate for a
western audience (Menri monastery, oral communication, 2002).
199 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, p. 4.3. I have used the Sanskrit names i~ti and phigalti that
are given in Hindu texts, but in Buddhist texts they use laltina and rasanti for the secondary
channels, as a literal translation for rgyan ma and ro ma, respectively.
200 More on this in chapters three and four.
67

the former (see appendix II, figure 1).201 Beyond the basic or principal structure

of the three channels, sometimes called the root or trunk, there are various minor

channels, usually divided as branches (yan lag), secondary branches (nying lag),

and leaves (la rna). This net of channels is said to be composed of 72,000; 84,000;

or 720,000 channels. As Shardza claims, there are so many that we cannot count

them or mention them.202

The channels are the architectural support of the subtle body and act as

pathways through which fluids and energies travel. Some, like the veins and

arteries, are the pathways for blood to circulate around our body. Subtler

channels are the roads through which vital breath currents travel, nurturing the

subtler dimensions of the body.

ii. Energetic Centers (khar la, cakra)

Along this supporting structure of the channels lie the energetic centers or

wheels. Their numbers and locations vary according to the tradition describing

them or even according to the specific practice in which they are engaged, but in

201 However, and maybe based on some of the Hindu traditions, "[alt the sites of the four
chakras, the two channels, rasana and lalana, wrap around the central channel, forming knots"
(Tsongkhapa, "A Book of Three Inspirations," tr. By Glenn Mullin in Tsongkhapa's Six Yogas of
Naropa, p. 143). Geshe Michael Roach also described them in this way, following Tsongkhapa
(Public talk, Houston, TX, 2004).
202 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, p. 6.4.
68

general the most important ones are located along the central channel. In Mass of

Fire, Shardza describes them as follows: 203

• Crown, great bliss energetic center (bde chen 'khor 10),

• Throat, energetic center of enjoyment/ experience (longs spyod 'khor 10),


• Heart, true nature energetic center (bon nyid 'khor 10),

• Navel, manifestation energetic center (spru1 pa'i 'khor 10), and

• Secret, bliss sustainer energetic center (bde skyong 'khor 10).

Shardza describes each energetic center as having a number of petals, a color,

and so forth, and acknowledges that other texts describe them differently.204 He

adds:

one should visualize each center with its spokes as tree/center


(tsibs shing) entering to the handle/ center (yu ba) of an umbrella
(gdugs). In that way they [the channel-petals] enter the central
channel and abide in one/same hollowness (sbubs).205

Also, as their individual titles illustrate, each energetic center supports a distinct

experience. Different practices will engage one or more of them and thus give

203 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, p. 27 (Tr. by M.A. Chaoul, unpublished). This
description is not unique to this text. I use this text as an example, since it is the one with more
intimate relation to the texts and materials I am analyzing in this dissertation.
204 Shardza writes that there is not much agreement in other texts in regards to the amount (mang
nyung) of channel petals (rtsa'dab) and so forth. However, two important texts, the Ye khri mtha'
sel and the Mkha"gro gsang mrdzod, agree on the above description of the number and names of
the energetic centers. He adds that "this is the thought/intent of the Yang rtse Klong chen, and
similarly, [I, Shardzal have expressed (bkod) it's validity (thad pa'i sgrub) in the dBying rig mdzod,"
where one can see it in more detail (Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, pp. 27 - 28, from
unpublished manuscript.
69

rise to such experiences. A chart created by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's

Ligmincha Institute illustrates the functions of each of the vital breath currents as

they work in a particular energetic center through the channels-breaths practices

of the Mother Tantra (see appendix II, figure 2).

iii. Vital Breath Currents (rlung, prtma)

In the channels-breaths practice from the Mother Tantra, five kinds of vital

breath currents are mentioned, each related to one of the five vital breath

currents of Tibetan medicine (also equivalent to those in Ayurveda).206 As the

vital breath current is brought to each of these energetic centers and held there, it

subtly moves, expressing the energy of that energetic center into a shape (dbyibs)

and with a specific color. Many of these characteristics are not unique to Mother

Tantra or to Bon, but they are the closest links to the ZZ Oral Transmission's

magical movements. However, having a channel-breath movement for each of

the five vital breath currents seems quite unique to the Mother Tantra. 207 Shardza,

205 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, p. 27.


206 We see the same names used for the different vital breath currents in different medical texts as
well as in various tantric texts. However, as Dr. Yeshi Dhonden remarks, the Tibetan medical
texts locate the life-sustaining vital breath at the crown of the head and the pervading vital breath
at the heart, and in the tantric texts this is reversed (Dr. Yeshi Dhonden, Healing from the Source, tr.
by B. Alan Wallace, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2000). Dr. Dhonden adds: "Moreover,
when Tibetans refer to disorders of the life-sustaining wind, we always refer to the heart, which
is where such disorders are felt, with symptoms such as heaviness, palpitation, throbbing, and so
forth. Thus, even though the medical tantras [i.e., Rgyud bzhi] say it is located on the top of the
head, in actual practice Tibetan doctors identify is as being located at the heart. So there is
somewhat of an incongruity between theory and practice" (Ibid, pp. 24-25).
207 I need to research this further.
70

basing his description on the Mother Tantra, describes the five vital breath

currents in Mass of Fire: 208

• Upward moving (gyen du rgyu) vital breath at throat center, the shape
is of an umbrella; color is yellow;

• Life upholding or life force (srog 'dzin pa) vital breath at the heart
center, shape of a precious jewel, white color;

• Fire and equanimity (mnyam pa) vital breaths at the navel center, shape
as a wheel, red color;

• Downward (thur du) clearing (sel ba) vital breath at the secret center,
shape of a bellows (sbud pa), blue color;

• Pervasive (khyab) vital breath at all the channel petals, shape as


sunrays, green color.

In these channels-breaths practices, there is an external movement of the body

for each vital breath, an internal way of the breath moving, and a subtle way of

the light expressed in a specific color and producing a specific shape. 209 Shardza

instructs the practitioner that in order to enter well into the path of this method

of channels-breaths practices, one must diligently ('bad) apply oneself to its

practice until one is perfectly fit or able (les su rung) in the concentration of the

mind and does not fall into deluded thoughts ('khrul 'byams).210

208 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, p. 28. Also Mother Tantra, pp. 603ff.
209 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche discusses these three aspects in Healing with Form, Energy and Light,
Chapters 3 and 4, pp. 76 - 130.
210 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Mass of Fire, p. 28.
71

Inner Landscapes: Charting the Mandala

I offer my whole body containing the three channels with its five
energetic centers, the five vital breaths and the light coming forth
from them, together with the sixteen mind-essences-or essential
spheres. 2ll

Namkhai Norbu states that the subtle body is called the "inner ma1J~ala" and

asserts that "[i]t is the work done with the inner ma1J~ala that makes the tantric

practices of the Path of Transformation a more rapid path realization than the

methods of sutras."212 As mentioned earlier, he uses the Sanskrit yantra yoga to

describe magical movements. I would thus like to explore the meanings of yantra,

as I believe it can help in understanding its use within the yogic context. In its

earlier uses, yantra takes the meaning of "object serving to hold," "instrument,"

or "engine,"213 as well as a "magical diagram," which is a simple form of

ma1J~ala.214 Also, according to David Gray, "[t]he use of yantra as a yogic posture

was common by the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries, although we cannot

conclude that its use was not common prior to this."215 Basing his research on the

Cakrasamvara Tantra and its commentaries, Gray states, "[t]he term 'yantra,'

211 Shardza Iashi Gyaltsen, "Channels-breaths supplication prayer" (Rtsa rlung gsol 'debs), in
Mass of Fire, p. 102, lines 1 -2 ma1J~ala offering (man~al bul ba) section (from my unpublished
transla tion).
212 N. Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, pp. 89 -90.
213 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 219.
214 Buddhologist David Gray, who has examined in detail the Cakrasamvara Tantra and its
commentaries, mentioned that at least in Jayabhadra's mid-ninth-century commentary of it, the
term yantra was used "but only in the sense of a magical diagram" (electronic communication,
Houston, IX, June 2005).
215 David Gray, electronic communication, Houston, IX, June 2005.
72

which is usually translated into Tibetan as 'phrul 'khor, occurs several times in the

Cakrasamvara Tantra and commentaries, with three different meanings, in order

of frequency: 1) a magical diagram 2) a yogic posture 3) a machine or

mechanism.// 216 I believe that each of these three meanings, although different,

can be understood as being partly present in each of the other two. As a magical

diagram, yantra or ma1J~ala is understood as a cosmic manifestation or palace of

the deities. Thus the body can be seen as the machine hosting the inner ma1J~ala

of the subtle body that can be toiled through yogic postures. Italian Buddhologist

Giuseppe Tucci states in his Theory and Practice of the Mandala: "It [the ma1J~ala ]

is, above all, a map of the cosmos. It is the whole universe in its essential plan, in

its process of emanation and of reabsorption.// 217

Ma1J~alas are sometimes drawn, painted, or even constructed with sand.

They serve as a support for the practitioner in his/her meditation practice, as a

way to concentrate better and also defend the practitioner "against mental

distractions and temptations.// 218 Eliade also writes, "[t]he ma1J~ala 'defends' the

disciple against any destructive force and at the same time helps him to

concentrate, to find his 'center./f'219 It is interesting to note that the Tibetan word

216 David Gray, electronic communication, Houston, TX, June 2005. Also see his The Discourse of
Sri Heruka: A Study and Annotated Translation of the Cakrasamvara Tantra. American Institute of
Buddhist Studies/Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2006.
217 Giuseppe Tucci, The Theory and Practice of the MarLflala, tr. from Italian by Alan Houghton
Brodrick (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001), p. 23.
218 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 225.
219 Ibid, p. 222.
73

dkyil, besides the meaning of "ma1J~ala-center," also denotes "core," "essence,"

"inner," and so forth, and dkyil'khor, the Tibetan rendering for ma1J~ala, denotes

"fullness" and "entirety," among other meanings. 22o Also, in Tibetan oral

language, "how are you?" is literally "how well is your physical form or body"

(sku gzugs bde po), and the honorific manner of addressing a lama, for example, is

"how clear is your ma1J~ala dimension?" (sku dkyil gsal dwangs). This

understanding of the body as a ma1J~ala that can be cleansed, I argue, is what the

practitioner intends in every magical movement, cleansing from the center to the

periphery.

In many Hindu, Bon, and Buddhist practices, one is said to "enter the

ma1J~ala" as one is initiated to the practice of that particular deity. In Eliade's

words, "by entering the ma1J~ala, the yogin approaches his own 'center,'" and in

that he "re-enacts and masters the cosmic process," through which the

meditation practice "can find the ma1J~ala in his own body."221 He argues that the

ma1J~ala is an imago mundi, and "its center [dkyil] corresponds to the infinitesimal

point perpendicularly traversed by the axis mundi; as he approaches the center,

the disciple approaches the 'center of the world."'222 Furthermore, as an imago

mundi, the cleansing expands to all sentient beings, which are part of the

220 Ranjung Yeshe electronic Tibetan-English dictionary, record 65310.


221 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 225.
222 Ibid, p. 225. It is important to note that categories such as imago mundi and axis mundi are
Eliade's way of describing or interpreting these Buddhist concepts and not necessarily concepts
74

periphery. Each magical movement, then, could also be seen as a pure offer of

oneself, all beings, and the entire universe. As stated in the ma1'J~ala offering

section from Shardza's channels-breaths practice supplication prayer, cited at the

beginning of this section" one could say that, from that center, the channels, the

vital breath currents and their luminosity, together with the mind-essences, arise

as one performs magical movements of channels and vital breath currents. It is to

that center that the "return of the absolute from existence to essence" occurs.223

Vajra Hermeneutics

In his article, "Vajra Hermeneutics," Robert Thurman creates an appealing

hermeneutical model to understand tantric practices, including the stages of

generation (bskyed rim) and completion (rdzogs rim).224 Thurman writes that the

former is "the stage of the imaginative visualization of the universe," [where]

"[t]he diamond womb of the ma1'J~ala palace now becomes a gymnasium wherein

one practices the arts of dying and creative resurrecting."225 His description

evokes the dynamism of the creation and reabsorption process that occurs in

every magical movement. The body-ma1'J~ala, as described above, hosts the

manifestations created by working with channels and vital breath currents in

described by Buddhists in the same way. Nevertheless, I find them to be very useful tools to
understand the Buddhist conception of mal}qala, beyond its literal sense.
223 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 263.
224 Robert Thurman, "Vajra Hermeneutics," Buddhist Hermeneutics, ed. D. Lopez, pp. 119-148.
225 R. Thurman, "Vajra Hermeneutics," pp. 131-132. A thorough explanation of the generation
and completion stages are outside the scope of this study, and so I direct the reader to: H.H. the
Dalai Lama, Tsong-ka-pa, and Jeffrey Hopkins Deity Yoga: in Action and Performance Tantra
75

each of the magical movements, engaging the practitioner in a transformation

process. Each magical movement becomes the means for an utter remaking,

including the subtlest spiritual level, the psychic, the emotional, and the grosser

physical levels. It can lead to a total makeover that Eliade would describe as "a

totally new existence," from profane to sacred. 226 Furthermore, this

transformation, which is able to extend from the subtlest to the physical, is said

to have the potentiality of changing not just oneself but others too, as will

become clear in chapter three.

Mahayana Ethics

The dynamism that occurs in the body-ma1!~ala is imbued with a

Mahayana ethical dimension. When one practices for the benefit of all sentient

beings one is at that moment in the center ('dkyil) of the ma1!~ala, and from there

practicing for the benefit of all beings, the periphery ('khor). Through the inner

dynamism of these practices, the yogin's perspective is freed into what, in

Tibetan tantric parlance, is referred to as "pure vision" (dag snang):

To see the entire world around one as having the nature of the
mandala is a form of 'pure vision' or dagnang opposed to the
impure vision of ordinary life. The mandala vision is truer and
more correct than the practitioner's normal perception of reality.
Everything in the external universe can be seen as an aspect of the

(Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1981), David Germano, "Dzogchen Mini-Encyclopedia,"
Daniel Cozort, Highest Yoga Tantra and Sarah Harding, Creation and Completion, among others.
226 See M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 167ff. The sacred and profane are categories developed by Eliade
(based on R. Otto, E. Durkheim and others) in his The Sacred and Profane: The Nature of Religion,
San Diego, New York, and London: Harvest/HBJ, 1987 (rp. 1957 and 1959).
76

entities within the mandala and aspects of the external and internal
reality.227

Samuel affirms that the completion stage of these practices is:

the directing of the energies into the central 'channel' of the body,
which in Hindu Tantra was generally conceptualized as the ascent
up the spinal column of KUl).9alini, the coiled serpent at the base of
the spine, [which in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition] is equated
with the awakening and the ascent of bodhicitta. 228

That awakening of the "mind of enlightenment" (serns bskyed, bodhicitta) to the

altruistic impetus of the Mahayana tradition is with what Samuel calls "bodhi"

orientation, or the emphasis on the goal of liberation or enlightenment with the

intention to liberate all sentient beings. Samuel adds, "The bodhi orientation thus

provides Buddhist Tantra with an inbuilt ethical parameter, which is on the

whole absent from Hindu Tantra."229 As we will see below and further in the

next chapter, the intention of practicing for the benefit of all sentient beings is

very apparent in magical movement. This is especially depicted at the end of

each movement, when the practitioner purifies not only his/her own obstacles,

but also includes those obstacles of all sentient beings. By liberating all

227 G. Samuel, Civilized Shamans, p. 236.


228 Ibid, p. 242. In tantra, bodhicitta can also be related to thig Ie, which can be translated as "mind-
essences" or, in sexual practices, as "seminal-essences." Not denying that this might also be the
case here, as some of the yogic and sexual practices can be related, I will focus here on the more
"classic" meaning and more "sterilized" tantric understandings.
229 G. Samuel, Civilized Shamans, p. 243.
77

obscurations in this way, the yogin has the perception that the whole universe is

a Buddha dimension, and all beings in it are Buddhas, including oneself.

Mandalas as Buddha Dimensions

Since rna1!~alas are also considered to be the palace of the deities or

heightened states of mind, the performance of these yogic practices can elicit

different enlightened or Buddha dimensions (sku). They thus provide a paradigm

for the relation between ordinary sentient beings and Buddhas, or conventional

to ultimate reality. Therefore, by engaging in these yogic practices, the yogi can

produce that shift. For example, in Mass of Fire, Shardza writes that in channels-

breaths practices one brings the air with one-pointed concentration (serns gtad) to

each center. By allowing the air to move along and around (gyi gyi kor kor) each

of the centers, one helps the manifestation of these rna1!~alas or Buddha

dimensions to occur. He describes it as follows: 23o

• Crown center and throat center, together with the upward moving
vital breath, are True Buddha Dimension (bon sku),

• Heart center231 together with the life-force vital breath, are Complete
Buddha Dimension (rdzogs sku),

• Navel center together with the fire and equanimity vital breaths, are
Manifested Buddha Dimension (sprul sku),

• Channel-petals of the branches together with the pervasive [vital


breath], are Essential Buddha Dimension (ngo bo nyid sku), and

230 Shardza, Mass of Fire, p. 29. This could also go together with the channels-breaths chart
mentioned earlier (see appendix II, figure2).
231 Note here that snying is used instead of thugs, Shardza, Mass of Fire, pp. 28 - 29.
78

• Secret center together with the downward moving and clearing [vi tal
breath], are the Great Bliss Buddha Dimension (bde chen po'i sku).

In the same text, Shardza makes a parallel between the channels and the main

three enlightened dimensions: the central channel as true dimension, the right

channel as complete dimension, and the left channel as manifested dimension. 232

The complete and the manifested dimensions can be thought to arise from or

express the qualities of the true dimension. The true dimension is said to have no

attributes; it is being, like the natural state of mind. From that state, all attributes

can arise, like those of the completion and manifested dimensions.

From the practitioner's perspective, these yogic practices provide the

methods to transform from the state of an ordinary sentient being into that of a

Buddha. The practices use the secondary channels to eventually allow the yogi to

abide in the central channel. Abiding in each energetic center along the central

channel provides an experience of a different Buddha-realm, as we see from

Shardza's description above. However, in order to abide in the central channel,

the practitioner works with the secondary channels, which become the conduits

for the cleansing of obstacles and bringing the right nutrients into the central

channel, where they will eventually dissolve. In other words, it manifests into

two (or more) channels and is then reabsorbed into one. This is a very simplified

account of the dynamics of the generation and completion stages. In any tantric
79

practice, after the generation stage, there is a concluding stage where the

practitioner dissolves himself or herself back into the center and finally into

emptiness (stong pa nyid, sunyata). That center is the center of the mar:z~ala, the

state of mind when one is the center from which all can arise and into which all

will eventually dissolve. 233

IV. The Yogi's Dynamism

The subtle body is the yogi's field. In this field, the vital breath currents

move through the channels and energetic centers, creating a certain dynamic.

Here I will propose that in different yogic systems there are different dynamics

in play. Therefore, I will first present the dynamic represented by the kur:z~alini,

about which White and others have already written, and then introduce another

model that I will call the mar:z~ala-dynamic.

White writes, "[t]he yogic body becomes the stage for the return of the

absolute from existence to essence through the descent and ascent of the

kur:z~alini."234 Throughout The Alchemical Body, White finds points of convergence

and overlap between what he calls the "pneumatic" and the "hydraulic" ways of

232 Shardza, Mass of Fire, p. 29. Again, this is not unique to this text; other tantric texts from
Buddhist and Bon traditions have similar correspondences.
233 David White dedicates much of his chapter eight ("Homologous Structures in the Alchemical
Body") and part of chapter nine ("The Dynamics of Transformation of Siddha Alchemy") to what
he calls the "withdrawal an return on the part of a cosmic yogin, and he explains how the work
II

done by the yogin, as microcosm, affects the whole universe, the macrocosm. (D. White, The
Alchemical Body, p. 263). Tucci also devotes his chapter, liThe Ma1:z~ala in the Human Body," to this
issue (G. Tucci, The Theory and Practice of the Ma1:z~ala, pp. 108-133).
80

these kU1J4alini dynamics. In other words, the pneumatic runs by means of air

and breath, while the hydraulic operates through, or like, fluids. White states

that the yogin uses more the former and the alchemist more the latter, but "[t]he

quest of the alchemist and that of the yogin are one and the same."235 As we have

seen, White qualifies that by saying that alchemy is an external method and that

hatha yoga and even channels-breaths practices-which he calls "channels and

winds" -are internal methods, pneumatically working the breaths together with

the mind through the channels, which "can lead to direct enlightenment."236 Our

bodies thus become a site of potentiality where the energetic landscapes of

channels and energetic centers are not static but latently dynamic and craving to

be awakened. White affirms:

In hatha yoga, the principal motor behind the transformations .. .is a


pneumatic one. It is wind ... taking the form of controlled breathing,
plays a crucial trans formative role in the hathayogic system. 237

The vital breath currents' principal function, one could argue, is to promote this

awakening. As Prabhkar Machwe asserts, the "[h]uman body has such

morphogenetic fields of unrapped [sic. unwrapped] energy, which can be

released and aroused by the appropriate contact."238 In other words, as the vital

234 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 263.


235 Ibid, p. 263.
236 Ibid, p. 71.
237 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 45.
238 Prabhkar Machwe in the foreword of B. Bhattacharya's The World of Tantra, (New Delhi,
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1988), p. x.
81

breath currents come in contact with the subtle body and its energetic centers,

the energy stored in each center can become released. The qualities related to that

center are unwrapped and brought forth for the practitioner to use. Indologist

Jean Varenne forewarns that, within the subtle body, the breath is directed to

different areas, even though "Hindus know as well as we do that 'material' air

penetrates no further than the lungs. Yet this internal circulation is of very

highest importance since it determines the success or otherwise of the

meditation."239

Analyzing the Indian systems, Eliade, White, and other scholars240

emphasize the upward moving of the vital breath currents piercing through the

various energetic centers, emerging through the fontanel of one's head or crown

center. This is what, inspired by David White, I refer to as the "ku1J~alini-

process."241 KU1J~alini is imagined as a serpent lying dormant in one's secret

energetic center. It is awakened by the vital breath current as it reaches and

pierces that energetic center, and then hikes to the summit by piercing all the

intermediate centers on its way. The victory of that ascent is expressed in a

transformation that breaks the ties to mundane or samsaric existence and

239 Jean Varenne, Yoga and the Hindu Tradition, (translated by Derek Coltrnan, Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1976), p. 158.
240 See for example M. Eliade, Yoga, pp. 245 - 249, David White, The Alchemical Body, pp. 290 -
294, and A. Avalon, The Serpent Power, p. 110, among others.
241 "Ku1J~alini beyond yogas: a spring to immortality/enlightenment," an unpublished paper I
wrote for David White's "Hindu Tantra" course at The University of Virginia, Spring 1996.
82

transmutes "into an energy of pure consciousness."242 He who makes this his

"permanent abode and can lead his energy there at will, attains to liberation

while still living. "243 This is what I call the kUlJ~alini dynamics.

White asserts that, through the breath control or pralJayama, the base of the

central channel is opened, which is identical to what we will also see in the

magical movement's text. Thus, White writes:

it is ultimately breath, breathing in and breathing out, that unites


the microcosm to the macrocosm. It is for this reason in particular
that breath control plays such a paramount role in the entire yogic
enterprise. 244

He describes the ktu:l<;ialini model of breath control or pralJayama as follows: "It is

by pumping up and thereby emptying the two peripheral subtle channels, the i~a

and the pingala, that the theretofore empty sU$umlJa suddenly becomes filled with

the subtle breath or life force (pralJa) to become the yogin's internal upward-

tending channel to liberation."245 White's analysis of hatha yoga's kUlJ~alini

dynamics is an important foundation to understanding the dynamics of magical

movements.

242 A. Avalon, The Serpent Power, p. 29.


243 A. Avalon, The Serpent Power, p. 31. Called jivanmukti, it is a crucial concept in Indian tantric
thought. For more on jivanmukt, see David White, The Alchemical Body, pp. 142 - 174, as well as
the exceptional work of Andrew Fort, Jivanmukti transformation: Embodied liberation in Advaita and
Neo-Vedanta, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1998.
244 D. White, The Alchemical Body, p. 46. White is also marking the similarities and distinguishing
them from the alchemical transformation yogic system, based on fluids rather than air.
245 D. White, The Alchemical Body, 226.
83

Mandala- Dynamics

The body as a ma1J~ala is more than a structure in magical movement. It

hosts and also affects the dynamics of the vital breath currents within the subtle

body. In the same way that the kU1J~alini metaphor describes the pneumatic (and

in some cases hydraulic) dynamics of hatha yoga, that model will have a place in,

but not encompass the totality of the dynamism of magical movement. I will call

the dynamism operating in magical movement ma1J~ala-dynamics. In other

words, magical movement shares the kU1J~alini dynamic to a certain extent,

especially in channels-breaths practices as the practitioner works with the

energetic centers all along the central channel, as seen earlier. However, the

upward thrust and piercing of the energetic centers by the vital breath currents is

not emphasized. In my view, magical movement operates under a slightly

different paradigm or model that I will be calling here ma1J~ala-dynamics. I

would also argue that ma1J~ala-dynamics supports the philosophical view that

the magical movement texts studied here propound.

Moving the Gears

In channels-breaths practices and in magical movement, the principal

motor behind the transformation is pneumatic, as it is in hatha yoga. By this, I

mean that, through the power of the breath that carries the mind, changes can

occur at the physical, energetic and cognitive levels. In channels-breaths practices

and magical movement, after the initial inhalation, breath is held as one executes
84

one of the movements. As the breath is still, the mind riding on it is also still. It is

still in a particular way, however, where, during the performance of each

movement, there is no inhalation and exhalation. In spite of this, the vital breath

currents continue their internal flow. In each movement of the channels-breaths

practices, the corresponding vital breath current takes a particular shape

according to the particular energetic center where it is working. 246 In magical

movement, it is the pervasive vital breath current (khyab rlung) that slowly and

smoothly keeps distributing throughout the whole body. As the body moves

following one of the magical movements, it guides that pervasive vital breath

current into different areas that need to be unblocked. This means that each

magical movement is designed to carry the vital breath current into different

areas so that they can be unblocked and clear. The mind is at rest, and the yogin

can integrate the body movement to keep releasing obstacles and allow the mind

to continue abiding in its natural state. This is also the meaning behind

integrating one's actions, mentioned in chapter one.

In channels-breaths practices from the Mother Tantra, as the breath and

mind get to a particular energetic center, they display the specific form that we

have seen as subtle movement of light, described by Shardza in Mass of Fire. 247 In

my own imagination, each time the vital breath current arrives to the energetic

246 As shown above, different shapes are produced as each of the five vital breath currents arrives
at its related energetic center.
247 See Shardza's earlier description of the vital breath currents.
85

center it "kisses" the sleeping kUfl~alini beauty and awakens it. As the vital breath

current makes contact with an energetic center, the latent energy there awakens.

Some need more than just a kiss to awaken, and the movements help in that

regard too. Said differently, each magical movement guides the vital breath

currents to different energetic centers and areas of the body. The continuous

movement stirs and shakes the vital breath currents in those areas, so the

movement and the pressure of that vital breath current working in the specific

area can clear the blockages away. The Mother Tantra images of the umbrella,

jewel, wheel, sun rays and bellows in each of the energetic centers, as we have

seen earlier, are the displayed mafl~alas at each center, with their respective

yellow, white, red, green and blue colors.

In all magical movements, the breath is pervasive. Thus, it follows the

same dynamics as the pervasive channels-breaths movement from the Mother

Tantra: as the breath together with the mind arrive at the union of the channels,

the vital breath current spreads like green rays of light to the rest of the body.

Each of the magical movements then guides that vital breath current to a

particular area and helps open blockages and clear obstacles. I equate this image

of the rays of the sun at the energetic center of the union of the channels in

magical movements to the display of the mafl~ala-dynamics movement outwards,

spreading from the center to the periphery, from the energetic center of the union

of the channels to the whole body.


86

The body movement itself could also be conceived as a particular ma1J~ala

display, where the impetus of the vital breath current pulsates the torso, head

and limbs, allowing the body to become a distinct form, or the ma1J~ala of that

particular magical movement. If we allow ourselves to picture the ma1J~ala

displays in the way described above, these Tibetan yogic practices can be said to

express this ma1J~ala-dynamism by following the dynamics of the pervasive vital

breath current from its center at the union of the channels to its radiating to the

rest of the body. For each movement, there is an external manifestation of the

physical movement as a body-ma1J~ala and a distinct internal ma1J~ala following

the pattern of the vital breath current. The pneumatic dynamic here follows a

centrifugal-centripetal movement from the center to the periphery and is

reabsorbed back to the center. And yet, the ascendant-descendant dynamic of the

kU1J~alini model is not totally absent either. The center of this dynamism may

shift along the central channel. It is thus not just one ma1J~ala in motion at each

time, but it opens the possibility of multiple interacting ma1J~alas.248

These ma1J~alas, literally from Tibetan center (dkyil) and periphery ('khor),

sometimes function one at a time and sometimes simultaneously. In channels-

breaths practices, one works one ma1J~ala at a time. 249 Having trained each

ma1J~ala individually through channels-breaths practices, in magical movement

248 I am grateful to Anne Klein for her comments during our discussion of this material, Houston
IX, January 2005.
87

one works with many ma1J~alas simultaneously, by means of the pervasive vital

breath current reaching to multiple energetic centers. Understanding these

dynamics, Silburn's translation of cakra as "whirling centers" is very appealing,

and so these ma1J~alas are whirling simultaneously, waking up different parts of

the yogin's body.250 Said simply, many inner ma1J~alas of the different energetic

centers can be awakened and, at the same time, help shape the ma1J~ala of the

body as a whole. As the pervasive vital breath current spreads within the body

guided by each of the magical movements, there is unison in the whirling of the

different centers involved. This should become clearer as the explanation of

magical movement unfolds in the next chapter.

Radiating Mandalas

So, as the vital breath currents enter each one of the energetic centers, they

stimulate each of them to whirl, creating ma1J~alas expressed in the body as form,

with breath as energy and mind as light. Tenzin Rinpoche's book title, Healing

with Form, Energy and Light, conveys this clearly; however, I should note that

Tenzin Rinpoche does not describe them as ma1J~alas. Inspired by Thurman's

descriptions of the subtle body generation and completion stages as "artistic

techniques,"2510ne could also think of each process of these ma1J~ala

representations as being a different kaleidoscope. Think, for example, of

249 Except for the upward moving vital breath current movement, where the throat and the
crown energetic centers are engaged.
250 See Lillian Silburn, KU1J~alinl: the energy of the depths (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY, 1988), p. 25.
88

watching a kaleidoscope and all the variegated forms displayed, always

emerging from a center point. Every time we rotate our kaleidoscopic body, the

kaleidoscopic manifestation or display changes, and then it dissolves or is

transformed into another one. So, the manifestations change as the yogin

performs the different magical movements, but the return is always to the center.

Nevertheless, after each magical movement or ma1J~ala display, the coming back

to the center may feel different, possibly each time feeling more comfortable in

that natural state of mind, which is sometimes also called "home."252

The mahayana impetus mentioned above takes particular importance at

this stage of the practice. Understanding not just the body and subtle dimensions

as ma1J~alas, but also the universe as the macrocosmic ma1J~ala, the rays of the

pervasive vital breath current spread from the center to the periphery, with the

altruistic intention of the mind of enlightenment not only to every organ, cell,

pore, breath, mind and so forth, but also to all sentient beings. With each magical

movement, the display of the ma1J~ala can be slightly different, shaped by the

body and by how the body guides the vital breath currents and mind. However,

we can say that the model is the same for all the 39 movements that will be

explained in the next chapter. That is, a pneumatic display begins at the union of

251 R. Thurman, "Vajra Hermeneutics," p. 132.


252 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche uses the metaphor of "home" for the state of being or returning to
one's natural state of mind. In many Dzogchen teachings, the home is the mother (rna) and one's
awareness is the son (bu), coming back to the mother's lap (See for example, Tenzin Wangyal
Rinpoche, Wonders of the Natural Mind, Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1993 pp. 121-122).
89

the channels and spreads in all directions like sunrays throughout all the main

and secondary channels that carry vital breath currents. Taking it a step further,

we could say that the intention of performing this for all sentient being becomes

ingrained in every cell and minute particles of the body, energy and mind so that

the transformation, after years (or lives) of practice, can be radical. Presumably,

that is the ontological shift from a sentient being to a Buddha.

The dissolution of the completion stage is also crucial to this dynamism. In

magical movement of the ZZ Oral Transmission, there seems to be a shift of center

at that concluding point. Although one could say that the sunrays return through

the same channels and even specifically back to the two secondary channels, then

to the central channels and finally to the union of the channels, there is also a

sense that the return is to the heart energetic center instead. As one performs the

various magical movements with the power of the vital breath currents and the

focusing of the mind, gross and subtle obstacles are released. Hence, the

sensation of the physical body becomes less solid, and the subtle dimension

comes to the forefront. The center of the subtle dimension is the heart center. So,

as one begins a magical movement, one focuses in the center of the physical body

(i.e., the union of the channels, four fingers below the navel), which is the center

of the generation stage of the ma1J~ala. However, as one concludes the movement

and exhales, one releases obstacles and feels more connected to the subtle
90

dimension. Therefore, the dissolution that results in the completion stage is into

the center of the subtle dimension: the heart.

In discussing this with Ponlob Thinley Nyima, he mentioned that the

heart is usually considered the center in the meditative state. He said, "the

dissolving is in the heart," and added that the "mind is in the body but the

special connection is the heart."253 Based on our discussion on the Mother Tantra,

especially in the chapter of the "Sphere of True Nature" (Bon nyid thig le),254 we

came to the conclusion that there is a shift in the center of the body-ma1,1~ala.

Forasmuch as the pervasive vital breath current begins spreading from the

energetic center at the union of the channels, after its full manifestation, it

dissolves at the heart. 255

Also, in reference to the expansion to all sentient beings, or the

macrocosmic ma1,1~ala, the following chapter of the Mother Tantra, "Never

Waning Sphere" (Mi nub thig le),256 describes nine kinds of vital breath currents

that begin at the heart, with the subtlest "vital breath of true nature" (bon nyid gyi

rlung), and end with the full manifestation and dissolution of the whole universe

253 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, April 2005.


254 Mother Tantra, pp. 317 - 355. 332. I want to especially thank Ponlob here for discussing with
me in this manner that is not along the lines of how the Tibetans do, and yet he expressed that he
was happy to do so, finding it fruitful. He added that, in the dialectic school, questioning is
thoroughly encouraged, although usually would take a different style.
255 Ponlob pointed out specifically where this "Sphere of True Nature" chapter refers to the
grosser manifestation arising from the navel and the subtler from the heart, Mother Tantra, p. 332.
256 Mother Tantra, pp. 357 - 376.
91

of this time, with the "era-destroying vital breath" (kal pa'i jigs rlung).257 In other

words, through the power of the pervasiveness of the vital breath currents, there

is a connection from the subtlest, one's natural state of mind, to the grossest, the

whole universe. I believe this would be in concordance with White's contention

that the transformation process of the yogin microcosm affects (and probably is

being affected by) the universal forces of the macrocosm.

In brief, I see the ma~~ala-dynamism that underlies these magical

movements as beginning at the energetic center of the union of the channels,

with the pervasive vital breath current and neutral holding, manifesting from

there in different shapes guided by the different magical movements and

dissolving after the exhalation with ha and phat at the heart center. There, the

yogin rests naturally in that state of mind and in that way is in contact with all

sentient beings. As mentioned earlier, when the ma~~ala-dynamic is at work, the

ku~~alini ascent is not totally absent. The pervasive vital breath currents spread

into all directions like sunrays, from the center to the periphery, but upwards is

quite prevalent. In their spreading, these vital breath currents provoke other

energetic centers to whirl, and different experiences may manifest different

ma~~alas, different kaleidoscopic displays.

At the completion stage of the dissolution, there can be a total

transformation from profane to sacred, as Eliade would say. And as long as one

257 Mother Tantra, p. 366. See appendix II, figure 3 for the list of these nine kinds of vital breath
92

is able to remain in that expanding state (rgyas), which has been purified (sangs)

of external, internal and secret obscurations, one (and all sentient beings) can be

in the Buddha (sangs rgyas) ma1J~ala. When that experience fades, one is back to

sarrzsara, but one would think that every time with more cleansing like the bottle

cleansed with water and with more familiarity to that meditative state so that

one can remain longer in it. That transformation can then be said to have affected

every fiber, cell maybe even DNA, physically energetically and spiritually. This

subtler dimension seems to emerge from within the physical body, but without

the need to totally shed from it. In other words, a refining of the body that allows

the subtle dimensions to be "interposed within" the physical body.258

I hope that this chapter of the dissertation has provided enough of a

theoretical framework that can ease our understanding of magical movement

and its dynamism. Therefore, I will now move specifically to the magical

movement of the ZZ Oral Transmission.

currents.
258 Borrowing the term from Teun Goudriaan and Sanjukta Gupta, Hindu Tantric and Sakta
Literature, p. 57, as mentioned earlier in this chapter.
93

Chapter 3.
Texts and Lamas: Interweaving Textual and Oral Wisdom

In Commentary, Shardza provides a very clear and systematic presentation

of the ZZ Oral Transmission's magical movements. In fact, this is the primary

magical movement text studied by the main Bonpo monastic centers and lay

communities. 259 Therefore, although Quintessential Instructions predates

Shardza's Commentary, I focus my discussion here on Commentary and draw from

Quintessential Instructions (and sometimes from Experiential Transmission) as

appropriate,260complemented by oral instructions that I received from

contemporary Bonpo lamas. 261 I will also add some of my own interpretation

drawn from my own experiential and phenomenological reflections in order to

make it more intelligible to the reader.

According to Shardza'sCommentary, there are thirty-nine magical

movements organized into four categories or cycles: 262 foundational (sngon 'gro),

root (rtsa ba), branch (yan lag), and special or auxiliary branches (bye brag). The

259 The two Bon monastic institutions in exile that provide geshe (dge shes) degrees, Menri and
Tritan Norbutse, rely upon Commentary as the main manual for practicing magical movements,
although they also study Quintessential Instructions, Mass of Fire, and the sections on magical
movements included in Instructions on the A (A khrid) tradition. Other minor monastic
institutions in exile, as well as Bonpo lay communities, mainly use Shardza's Commentary and
Mass of Fire. As mentioned earlier, in Shar pa, Amdo (T.A.R), there is a female group of monastic
and lay practitioners following Shardza's texts too.
260 I will thus mention when Shardza's Commentary diverts significantly from the earlier version
(on which it is based) and will provide a full translation of both texts in appendix III.
261 I received oral instructions on all the movements from the various Bonpo lamas mentioned
before.
262 The text itself does not give a name to this four-fold categorization.
94

foundational cycle consists of only one magical movement set or group of

movements, but each of the subsequent cycles is subdivided into two sets. This

makes a total of seven sets within those four cycles, illustrated as follows: 263

1. Foundational (323.3)

2. Root (326.2)
2.a Root magical movement set [among root cycle] (326.2)
2.b Magical movement set that Clears away obstacles (330.1)

3. Branch (333.2)
3.a Root [or Principal Branch magical movement set] (333.2)
3.b [Branch magical movement set that] Clear away obstacles
(335.5)

4. Special (338.3)
4.a Special magical movement set that clears away individual
obstacles from the head, the body and the limbs (338.3)
4.b Special [magical movement set] that clears Common
obstacles away (340.3)

The foundational cycle begins by training the vital breath currents to flow

through the channels and by warming up the body through a series of energetic

massages of the head, legs, arms, torso and lower body. The root cycle consists of

a main, or root, magical movement set that helps enhance and maintain a relaxed

and clear meditative state of mind, followed by a magical movement set that

clears away physical, emotional or mental obscurations. Similarly, the branch

cycle is divided into two sets: one that enhances meditation and the other that

clears obscurations away. The special branch cycle is divided a little differently.

263 The numbers in parenthesis, indicate the page in Commentary.


95

Its first set consists of a group of magical movements that, as in the foundational

cycle, clear away obscurations from different parts of the body. Its second set

harmonizes body, energy and mind by clearing away common obscurations of

the whole mind-energy-body system. 264 After describing each set, the benefits of

the movements are explained, sometimes as a whole set and at other times

movement by movement.

As I mentioned in chapter 1, most of the masters that designed or

compiled these magical movements lived around the eleventh and twelfth

centuries. Six265 masters of the ZZ Oral Transmission are known to have designed

or compiled the seven magical movement sets. They are mentioned both in the

Quintessential Instructions and in Commentary as follows:

1. Pongyal Tsenpo (Dpon rgyal Btsan po alias Dpon rgyal Chen po) compiled
the foundational cycle and the root set of the root cycle;

2. Togme Shigpo (Rtog med shig po) compiled the set of magical
movements that clear obscurations from the root cycle;

3. Lhundrub Muthur (Lhun grub mu thur) compiled both sets of the branch
cycle;

4. Orgom Kundul ('Or sgom kun 'dul) compiled the first set of the special
cycle;

264 A schema of this division can be see below in the text's outline section.
265 We can think of five or six, depending on whether we count Yangton Chenpo (Yang stan Chen
po) among those who designed part of a set or just transmitted it to his son, Bumje Od ('Bum rje
lad). As we will see later, both Quintessential Instructions and Commentary mention Yangton
Chenpo as a transmitter of the first part of the seventh set, but it is Bumje Od who remains the
chief composer of that set.
96

5. Yangton Chenpo (Yang stan Chen po alias Yang stan Shes rab rgyal
mtshan) compiled the first three movements of the last set, transmitting
them to his son;

6. Bumje Od ('Bum rje 'ad) compiled the rest of that last set.

These masters appear to have had a direct teacher-student relationship with each

other, except for Lhundrub Muthur and Orgom Kundu1. 266 Although it is

difficult to date the lifetimes of these teachers, Yangton Chenpo is said to have

lived at the end of the eleventh century.267 With that in mind, Pongyal Tsenpo,

the first of these masters, is likely dated around the tenth century. Bumje Od,

being the last of these masters, possibly compiled all the sets into cycles and put

them together as a text. Although there is no direct evidence for this claim, he is

said to have integrated the teachings he received from his father Yangton

Chenpo and his other master, Orgom Kundul into a "grand compendium,"

which is how "the present corpus of texts belonging to the Zhang-zhung Nyan-

gyud largely came into their present form."268 In other words, Bumje Od,

together with his father, compiled the different texts within ZZ Oral Transmission

266 It is not clear if they actually even meti however, both are part of the group of five masters of
the Listening Transmission's Lower Tradition (smad lugs), whose transmission was "purely oral,
called the 'Transmission of the Experience' (NyG [for Nyams brgyud])" (Samten Karmay, The
Little Luminous Boy, Bangkok, Thailand: Orchid Press, 1998, p. xvii). In Tibetan Nyams su myong
ba'i man ngag gi brgyud pa (Ibid, Bibliography, p. 111), vis a vis the Upper Tradition (stod lugs),
which "was a written one and known as the 'Transmission of the Word' (KG [for Bka'brgyud]) and
is what Gyerpung [Snang bzher lod po] is thought to have received form Tapi Hritsa [Ta pi hri
tsa]." (Ibid, p. xvii) Both traditions come together again with Yangton Chenpo (Ibid, p. xvii).
267 Ibid., p. xvii. Karmay adds supporting evidence for that date, stating that Yang ton Chenpo
had studied Buddhism from Bari Lotsawa, who was born in 1040 CE
268 John Myrdhin Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung, (Kathmandu, Nepal: Vajra
Publications, 2005), p. 178.
97

to make it into its present form, but it is not totally clear if he also compiled all

the different magical movement sets to make Quintessential Instructions. Based on

the chronology of the masters involved in it and Bumje Od's compiling the larger

corpus, I believe he did. Ponlob Thinley Nyima also agrees with this

speculation. 269 This being the case, since Bumje Od was Yangton Chenpo's son

and direct disciple, Quintessential Instructions could logically be placed, as I argue

in the introduction, around the late eleventh or early twelfth century.

ZZ Oral Transmission Text(s), and Interpretations

Here I elucidate the movements described in these texts (for their

translation, please see appendix III ).

Commentary's title clearly indicates that Shardza's text is a commentary on

Quintessential Instructions. It also tells us that it is part of The Very Profound Sky

Great Treasury, which is one of Shardza's five compilations or "Treasures.//270 I

find the homage of the text particularly meaningful:

269 The texts do not specify the overall author or compiler of all cycles, and the living teachers of
the tradition have no answer to this either. Ponlob Thinley Nyima narrates the story of Yang ton
Chenpo transmitting all the Experiential Transmission teachings to his son Bumje ad, who, after
receiving them, put them down in writing and most likely included the magical movements
(Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston April 2005). He added that the
circumstances in which this occurred and the important role of Ama fong leam, Bumje Od's
mother, is an interesting story that is narrated in Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. 43,
translated from "Life-stories of the Masters (Bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam thar), pp. 106 - 107, which has
the biographies of the masters of the Listening Transmission up to its author, Pa Ten-Gyal Zangpo,
who compiled it in 1419 (Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. 7).
270 The others are Lek shed mdzod, Sde snod mdzod (includes 'dul ba'i sden snod, ngong ba'i sde snod,
mdzod kyi sde snod), Lung rig mdzod and Dying rig mdzod. Self-Dawning is not part of the treasures
but a separate volume. Shardza's complete works are in 13 volumes.
98

Homage to the Ever-Excellent One (Kun tu bzang po), who clears the outer
and inner271 interruptions (bar chod).272

Buddhist and Bonpo texts typically begin with an homage. Although they can be

as simple as honoring one's personal master or the lineage, in doing so they

reveal important information for the reader. This homage is the aspiration to the

state of the "Ever-Excellent One,"273 one's own natural state of mind, which is a

classic Dzogchen homage. It also reveals something about the topic by stating

that one can be in that state by clearing away the external, internal and secret

obstacles. These are, respectively, illnesses (nad), afflictions (gdon) and subtle

mental disturbances (sgrib).

After the title and homage, Shardza's Commentary describes the division in

cycles and sets, as shown in the above schema. In other words, practicing these

magical movement cycles, the yogin can clear away illnesses, afflictions and

mental disturbances, and thus aspire to rest in his/her natural state of mind,

which is equated to the state of the Ever-Excellent One.

Preparation: Channels, Vital Breath Currents and Magical Movement

As seen in chapter 2, the understanding of the subtle body or dimension

and its elements is crucial to the effectiveness of the performance of magical

movement. Quintessential Instructions emphasizes the importance of "preparing

271 Secret interruptions are included within the inner, asserts Ponlob Thinley Nyima (personal
communication, Houston, October 2002).
272 Quintessential Instructions p. 632.
99

the pathways of the channels, [by] purifying the channels and vital breath

currents.// 274 Commentary, making it more explicit, describes: 275

Regarding rooting out poisons associated with the vital breath currents
and training the channels, [first] forcefully expel the coarse breath current
through the right [channel/nostril], [and then] leisurely inhale long
breath currents through the left [channel/nostril].

Here the practitioner becomes familiar with his/her subtle body, gaining the

capacity to fully engage in the practices. Through the training of the vital breath

currents, the practitioner guides the breath via the channels in what White would

call a pneumatic way. With powerful exhalations and nurturing inhalations, the

practitioner clears away the obstacles that are the poisons that impede the flow of

the vital breath currents. In other words, the channels are paths for both the vital

breath currents and the mind, which together flow like a horse and the rider on

it. When the mind is distracted by one of the afflictions, when the vital breath

current is interrupted by one of the illnesses, or when there are spirit-provoked

obstacles, the vital breath currents cannot flow in the proper way-together with

the mind, through the channels. This is why the rooting out of the poisons is key,

and sometimes kept somewhat secret too. Commentary explains, "this is the

method for rooting away poisons of the vital breath currents; [direct] oral

273 This will be my translation for the primordial being Kun tu bzang po (Tibetan) or
Samantabhadra (Sanskrit), which is also a metaphor for one's primordial or natural state of mind.
274 Quintessential Instructions 632,2-632.3.
275 Commentary 322.2-322.3. Here gzhung du means "later" or "as follows" (Ponlob Thinley
Nyima, personal communication, Houston, August 2003).
100

explanation from a teacher [is needed]."276 This underscores the importance of

oral commentary mentioned in the introduction. Although instructions are

provided in the text, it is not advised to practice them just on the basis of reading

a text. Instead, one should receive oral explanations from an authorized teacher,

giving one the key to open the door to one's experiences. Furthermore, most

Tibetans would not even look at such a text without having an appropriate

introduction and instruction to it by a lama or master.277

In the training of the vital breath currents that follows, Quintessential

Instructions states that the practitioner needs to be "holding the neutral (ma ning)

[vital breath current] pervasively (khyab par) through one's entire body."278 In

Commentary, Shardza emphasizes that this vital breath current "is the actual basic

vital breath current."279 Stated simply, but not lightly, the neutral holding that

allows the vital breath currents to pervade throughout the entire body is

employed in every magical movement. As we saw in chapter 2, it is precisely this

276 Commentary 322.3. Here I am translating "oral" for zhal, literally "from mouth," and can be
understood to be the counterpart of "listening" (snyan) within the orality process referred to
earlier.
277 This entails not just the instruction, but the triad of instruction ('khrid), oral transmission (lung)
and initiation (dbang). For example, Ponlob explains that since many yogis of the Listening
Transmission had Meri as their tantric deity, the initiation to that deity is considered important to
receive the blessings of those teachings. In that way, the practitioner purifies body, speech and
mind, and thus diminishes the externat internal, and secret interruptions or obstacles. Ponlob
adds that the foundational practices are important first in order to become "a suitable vessel"
(snod du rung ba) and not let the fruits of the practice get "rotten" (rul pa). Therefore, the best
sequence to receive these as a practitioner is: foundational practices, initiation, transmission, and
instructions (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston April 2005).
278 Quintessential Instructions 632.3 (cited in Commentary 322.4). Quintessential Instructions does not
divide the neutral breath in three.
279 Commentary 322.4. Underlining is mine, to emphasize it.
101

kind of vital breath current that creates the ma1J~ala-dynamic in every magical

movement. Furthermore, 5hardza adds that this neutral holding needs to be

trained through a tripartite process: "the smooth inner breath current [holding]

('jam rlung), the intermediate inner breath current [holding] (bar rlung), and the

coarse vital breath (rtsub rlung), or forceful vital breath [holding] (drag rlung)."280

This is not mentioned in Quintessential Instructions, and while Commentary

mentions the three holdings, it does not explain them. 50, what does a

practitioner do? Ask the lama. 5hardza, however, does explain the three breath

holdings further in another text, Mass of Fire. There, citing continuously from the

Mother Tantra, 5hardza describes the smooth holding as a "basket" (za ma rtog),

the intermediate as a "vase" (bum pa can) and the forceful as "mass of fire" (me

dpung ma).281

Ponlob Thinley Nyima says students and practitioners are directed to

other texts, such as the Mother Tantra and Self-Dawning, which also contains Mass

of Fire, besides receiving personal guidance from the teacher.282 Thus, in

Commentary, 5hardza continues his explanation of the vital breath currents

training saying, "all three, the smooth, coarse, and middle [holdings] are done in

four sessions, inhaling and exhaling 108 times in each of the four. At the end of

280 Ibid, 322.4 - 323.1.


281 Mass of Fire, pp. 39+.
282 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Menri monastery, India, February 2002.
102

these perform the magical movements." 283 The explanation of how to reach 108

and so forth is elucidated further in Mass of Fire, as well as in Shardza's auto

commentary of it, Main Points. 284 The line drawing in appendix III depicts the

posture in which the preparation of channels and vital breath currents is

performed. 285

Once the yogin completes the preparation of the channels and vital breath

currents, he can then begin the magical movement per sei. 286 What follows in the

succeeding sections is the explanation of the movements, cycle by cycle.

I.Cycle1: Foundational Magical Movement Cycle. 287

The foundational cycle consists of a single magical movement set. In

Commentary, Shardza clearly states that, although the foundational movements

are explained as six in Quintessential Instructions, according to oral explanation

283 Commentary 323.1-323.2.


284 Main Points pp. 281-319. In p. 282 it provides its full name: Rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar
gyi rtsa rlung thig Ie zhal shes dogs sel cung zang Ibri ba la thun mong gtum moli nyams len shes pa'i
thun mong, and thus it could also be called "Clearing Doubts." Mass of Fire (pp. 39 - 41) describes,
for each of the three holdings, the points of the body (Ius nad) or the posture in which one should
sit for that practice, the points of the breath (rlung nad) or the way one should guide and hold
one's breath and the points of the mind's focus (dmigs pa'i gnad) or the way in which one focuses
the mind's attention to focus or uses a particular visualization. The purpose of these holdings is
to develop the inner heat, which as mentioned before is sometimes considered a prerequisite for
magical movements. This is a more tantric approach, and perhaps for this reason does not appear
in Quintessential Instructions.
285 This illustrates the soft holding inner breath current (see preparatory breath posture in
appendix III). This whole breath training could be compared to what in Indian yogas is called
pranayama ("training of the breath").
286 As we will see in chapter 4, different curricula prescribe the above training in slightly different
ways, varying on the time the practitioner has to develop them.
103

(zhal shes),288 they are condensed into the following five: "Purification of the

Head (mgo sbyang), Purification of the Legs (rkang sbyang), Purification of the

Arms (lag sbyang), Purification of the Upper Torso (stod sbyang), and Purification

of the Lower Part [of the body] (smad sbyang)."289 However, as Ponlob Thinley

Nyima demonstrated, when practiced from Quintessential Instructions,

practitioners do all six parts as one single magical movement in the style of an

"energetic massage" including all six parts of the body.290

Shardza thus takes a hermeneutical approach with the foundational cycle.

In re-interpreting the six ambiguous foundational magical movements from

287 Commentary 323.3.


288 It is unclear the source of these oral explanations, i.e., if they come from Shardza's own
teacher or from earlier ones. Furthermore, Ponlob Thinley Nyima points out that zhal shes in this
context should actually be zhallas shes, meaning "oral wisdom or explication" from a lama. This
can be confusing in Commentary, since the text itself refers to Quintessential Instructions as zhal shes
when citing from it. Ponlob unequivocally asserts that zhal shes should refer to Quintessential
Instructions and zhal las shes to oral explanation by a lama, and thus this is clearly a mistake in
Commentary here, and it should be zhallas shes (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication,
Houston, August 2003).
289 Commentary 323.3 - 323.4 for the listing, followed by the description ending in 326.2. Shardza's
explanation is a welcome clarification for practitioners. While in Quintessential Instructions the
foundational cycle seems solely a preparation for the main three cycles that follow, in
Commentary it is not a simple preparation, but is actually one of the magical movement cycles.
Shardza makes a clear distinction between each movement within this initial set. In other words,
the six stages mentioned in Quintessential Instructions seem more of a single magical movement
with six parts, rather than six distinct magical movements.
290 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Houston, TX, August 2003, and April 2005.
In the first of these two visits, he carefully followed the six stages articulated in Quintessential
Instructions (i.e., head, body, right leg, left leg, right arm and left arm), aiming to highlight the
parts of the text where one part ended and the other began. However, he also mentioned then,
and confirmed in the latter visit, that the distinction was not clear in Quintessential Instructions
and that we were fortunate to have clear commentaries such as Shardza's, as well as oral
commentaries from living teachers. In effect, contemporary Bonpo teachers, monks and
practitioners, have shown them to me in several occasions as being all one continuous massage-
like movement of the whole body, including head and limbs (Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche,
personal instructions Charlottesville, VA, June 1994 and Chongtul Rinpoche, Houston, TX,
October 2002, among others).
104

Quintessential Instructions and crafting out the five distinct magical movements

he describes in Commentary, he brings clear meaning to the practitioner. 1 will

continue then, following Shardza's five foundational magical movements.

The Foundational Magical Movement Set.

Beginning with the purification of the head magical movement, this initial

cycle is designed to purify obstacles of different parts of the body, with a

succession of purificatory massage-like magical movements. Having previously

done the preparation of the subtle body through the training of the channels and

vital breath currents described above, the practitioner now works on the physical

body as a tool towards purification.

The beginning posture is the cross-legged meditation posture (skyil krung),

which, also called swastika (g.yung drung) or vajra (rdo rje), can sometimes mean

full lotus (legs totally crossed) or half-lotus (one leg on top of the other-see

drawing in appendix 111).291 Many of the movements begin in the cross-legged

posture, which is said to have many benefits such as:

• supporting the generation of heat by having the legs crossed into one's
body;
• allowing the vital breath currents to flow smoothly through the body by
keeping the spine straight; maintaining alertness by keeping the chest
open "like an eagle soaring in the sky;"
• reducing thoughts' elaboration by keeping the neck slightly bent forward;
keeping the mind clear by gazing with one's eyes slightly open looking
naturally forward; and

291Skyil krung can sometimes mean half-lotus, or full lotus, also called g.yung drung or vajra
(Menri Abbot Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima and Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication,
Menri monastery, February 2002).
105

• by keeping the hands in the position of equipoise--resting comfortably,


palms up on the lap, left upon right, about four finger widths below the
navel--helps generate bliss. 292

i. Purification of the Head

In this posture, with the breath held in the natural way, together with the

mind, in the purification of the head magical movement, one begins by rubbing

one's hands on top of one head. With the heated hands, one sweeps downwardly

along the right, left and front of the head in order to help direct the pervasive

vital breath currents and clear away any obstacles of the head in the pneumatic

way described earlier.

In other words, as one feels contact with one's obstacles, be it physical

illnesses, emotional or mental obstructions, or spirit's provocations (gdon), one

sweeps away the obstacles by means of the posture, the heated hands and the

vital breath currents guided by them. To conclude the movement, Shardza

writes:

In order to send out the illnesses and harmful disturbances from afflictive
obstructions and spirits, sound ha and, stirring from the depths of cyclic
existence, while at the same time shaking the body and limbs, reflect on all
sentient beings as Buddhas sounding phat. 293

292 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. Nyam Gyud Ngdndro: The Experiential Transmission [of Drugyalwa
Yungdrung] Part I: Ngdndro. Ed. by Alejandro Chaoul-Reich and Stephen Dignan,
Charlottesville, VA: Ligmincha Institute, 1998, p. 7. And Tenzin Rinpoche's own oral
commentary, Charlottesville Virginia, and Houston, TX from 1996 to 1998.
293 Commentary 324.1 - 2.
106

It is clear that the combination of the physical posture, the mind's focus and the

guidance of the vital breath currents has the power to release external, internal

and secret obstacles, not just for oneself but for all sentient beings. This is part of

the magic that allows the practitioner to be able to connect to one's natural state

of mind. This can be called the inner magic or the mystical effect of the practice.

Shardza adds, "these vocalizations should be applied to all the magical

movements. "294

In each of them, the practitioner eliminates "the illnesses and harmful

disturbances from afflictive obstructions and spirits" from the area that is the

focus of that particular yogic exercise. Again, the release of obstacles is not just

for oneself, but the intention of purification embraces all sentient beings.

About Concluding with Ha and Phat

It seems that the combined ha phat vocalization is unique to Bon--also

shared with magical movements of the Bonpo Instructions on the A. Other magical

movement texts, such as the Nyingma Union of Sun and Moon, describe

exhalations with ha, but not with phat. Other meditative practices use either ha or

phat, but none in this combined way, at least to my knowledge. As Shardza

clearly states, in the line cited above, this vocalization of ha and phat is applied to

all the magical movements from ZZ Oral Transmission. As seen above, it comes

together with the shaking of the four limbs that stirs also the internal obstacles,

294 Commentary 324.2.


107

while one thinks that is stirring all obstacles from the depth of samsara (i.e., from

all sentient beings). Then, with the vocalizations, one exhales and cleans those

obstacles away, remaining in a more clear state of mind. Actually one could say

in a clearer mind-energy-body system on in a clearer embodied mind.

Although sometimes Quintessential Instructions mentions just ha for this

concluding exhalation,295 in other sections, it mentions both ha and phat, and it is

clear that both are applied to all magical movements. 296 Furthermore,

Commentary not only reaffirms then that both the ha and the phat should be

applied to all the magical movements, but it also distinguishes the effects of ha

and phat.

295 Quintessential Instructions, 633.1-2.


296 Quintessential Instructions, 632.3. Quintessential Instructions first mentions this vocalization at
the beginning of its foundational cycle, stating that "in order to expel ('don) the impurities
vocalize (bton) ha and phat" (632.3). However later in that cycle mentions that after shaking the
four limbs one should "exhale ('bud) the vital-breath sounding ha and expelling ('don) the stale
air" (633.1 - 633.2). Notice that only ha is mentioned here without a phat following it, although
possibly it is assumed, since the statement of only a page before in Quintessential Instructions
indicates the use of both vocalizations. It could also be a sign of inattention of the author or
scribe.
Commentary reaffirms that both the ha and the phat should be applied to all the magical
movements, not only in its first mention, in the above citation, but also reminds us at the end of
the cycle: "afterwards send out the sounds ha and phat; applying ('gres) this to all [magical
movements]" (325.4 - 5). However, as we will see, in some of the 38 magical movements only ha is
indicated and no phat (especially in Quintessential Instructions, and Experiential Transmission
following it) and actually sometimes none of the sounds are mentioned at all, but the phrase
"apply to all" will appear in the first and/or last magical movement of every set. It seems clear in
Commentary, supported also by oral instructions of all the teachers from whom I learnt these
magical movements, that these sounds are implemented at the end of each magical movement. It
is hard to know if there is a specific reason for this omission. Possibly a lack of consistency, or the
assumption that both sounds are always present. Ponlob Thinley Nyima thinks that it is a
combination of both reasons (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Menri monastery,
February 2002, and Houston, August 2003).
108

Thus, the ha is used "In order to send out the illnesses and harmful

disturbances from afflictive obstructions and spirits," and phat is "stirring from

the pit of cyclic existence, while at the same time shaking the body and limbs,

reflecting on all sentient beings as Buddhas."297

Purification of the Legs, Arms, Torso, and Lower Body.

The magical movements that follow in the foundational set are the

purification of the legs, the arms, the torso, and the lower part of the body,

respectively. All of them are performed seated, and one stands up only at the end

of each movement. As one concludes with the shaking of the four limbs, the

vocalizations and the mind focus as described above. After performing each

magical movement and its concluding shaking and vocalization, the lamas

advise to "stay in that experience until it looses its freshness."298 Therefore, one

tries to remain in that pure experience, and when one is not able to hold the

experience in a relaxed and clear state of mind, it is time to perform the next

magical movement. So, after the purification of the head, one remains for a

moment in a centered, relaxed and clear state of mind (energy and body), and

after a few moments, one then begins the next magical movement.

297 Commentary 324.1 - 2. See figures 5 and 6, in appendix III, illustrating the shaking of body and
limbs.
298 This is advice that I heard not just in magical movement practice but in many meditative
instructions, where as one expels some obstacles and is able to find a more clear state of mind
and tries to abide in it as clear as possible. When the experience loses its freshness, it means that
one is not being able to hold it in that clear state of mind, and it is time to perform the next
magical movement.
109

ii. Purification of the Legs. 299

Seated with legs extended to the front and parallel to each other, one is

instructed to inhale with pervasive breath and neutral holding, allowing the vital

breath currents to be guided by one hand a time through the respective leg as if it

were an energetic massage. Each hand sweeps slightly above each leg or actually

lightly touching the leg. The downward sweeping movement purifies all

obstacles held in each leg. One is instructed to grab the toes and hold upwards

shaking slightly and then let the leg go down to the ground again. One concludes

with the shaking, stirring, mind focus and vocalizations as explained earlier.

Breathing

It is very important to restate the breathing process that applies to all the

magical movements. The pneumatic aspect is vital. The vital breath current

prevailing is pervasive and there is neutral holding. Therefore, one inhales

allowing the breath to expand from the union of the channels, four-finger width

below the navel, throughout the body like sunrays. These radiate guided by the

body movement and creating an inner experience. This is the process that I have

called mar~ala-dynamic. That dynamic is the same for all movements; however,

the movements themselves define not only the external shape but also the way

the vital breath currents are guided, and thus the mandalic display (externally

and internally) varies from movement to movement. Trying to explain this

299 Ibid, 324.4 - 325.1.


110

phenomenologically, the state of mind accessed should be the same, but the

sensations that color that experience may differ. I will mention some examples of

this as I describe other magical movements.

iii. Purification of the Arms300

Seated in the cross-legged posture, one is instructed to create special hand

gesture (pyhag rgya, mudra) with each hand called diamond-scepter (rdo rje, vajra)

fist. This is a powerful hand gesture also used in other practices of Bon and

Buddhism. In this case, though, instead of having the thumb at the base of the

ring finger, the thumb presses the ring finger. Noteworthy is that constricting the

ring finger in both these ways is a common Tibetan way of preventing spirits to

enter and disturb one's energetic system. 301

In this magical movement, by bending the arm, the vajra-fist touches the

armpit, especially at an energetic point inside, believed to enhance the experience

of clarity.302 One extends the right arm sideways, brings it back to the armpit

seven times and then does the same with the left. As the arm extends, one is to

feel the vital breath currents run through that arm and sweep obstacles from it.

300 Ibid, 324.4 - 325.1.


301 Ponlob Thinley Nyima explained how this is the door for spirits to enter in oneself causing
disturbances. Thus, closing them impedes those disturbances and even thoughts, explains Ponlob
(Ponlob Thinley Nyima, during a talk on Tibetan Meditation: A Healing of Body, Energy, and Mind,
Rice University, Houston, TX, April 2005). This is a common belief among all traditions of Tibet.
302 Namkhai Norbu mentions ten energetic points or five pairs of energetic points, these ones on
the edge of the armpit are described "to experience clarity" (Namkhai Norbu, The Song of the
Vajra, edited by Gina Perrini, Dzogchen Community, 1992. This text is an edited transcript of the
teachings that Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche imparted in Tashigar, Argentina, December 1990, and
that I was fortunate to attend.
111

In other words, instead of having the arms and hands sweep away obstacles of

other areas of the body, through a strong sideways movement each arm purifies

itself. One concludes with the same shaking, stirring, mind focus, exhalation and

vocalization as usual, remaining then in the experience as long as it is clear.

iv. Purification of the Upper Torso303

As the torso remains straight, one is to maintain the channels straight as

well. This allows the flow of the vital breath currents, especially in the torso area.

Extending both arms in front and drawing them inwards, one touches or slightly

pounds the chest area with the back bottom of the hand (lag mgo) seven times. At

the end after the shaking the limbs, stirring inside, the exhalation and

vocalization is ha, ha, ha, phat. This is the only movement in the whole text that

instructs to exhale with three has instead of one and then phat. Also, it is the only

one within this set in which the area purified is not really massaged, but

pounded, and then purified through that triple exhalation. It seems like the ha

themselves might suggest a way of expelling what the thumping in the torso had

freed. Furthermore, the three consecutive has might be also associated with the

release of the three kinds of obstacles mentioned earlier: external, internal and

secret or subtler. 304

303 Ibid, 325.1- 325.3.


304 Ponlob Thinley Nyima relates that, although this is not mentioned in the text, it seems a good
speculation (personal communication, Houston, August 2003). It would also be interesting to
bring the correlations between the body areas and different afflictions from the channels-breaths
practices of the Mother Tantra, mentioned earlier. In other words, if in the chest area the affliction
112

v. Purification of the Lower Bod y305

For the last movement in this set, according to Commentary, the beginning

posture is the same as in the second magical movement, where one is seated with

both legs extended in front and parallel to each other. However, both arms

sweep simultaneously downwards. After inhaling and holding in the usual way,

one raises one's hands on top of the head and brings them down, making contact

at the waist and sweeping down along both legs, again, like an energetic

massage brushing obstacles away. Reaching the toes, one extends the arms and

legs and stirs all four limbs slightly, feeling that some of the subtler obstacles are

freed through fingers and toes, while still maintaining the breath.306 One repeats

this movement seven times. Commentary reaffirms here, at the end of the

foundational cycle, that both the ha and the phat should be applied to all the

magical movements of this cycle of purification. 307 In fact, and as mentioned

above, this extends to the magical movements of all four cycles.

Benefits (yon tan)308

is anger, how can we release anger with this magical movement? In the root magical movement
sets, we will see correlations between the afflictions and individual movements, not necessarily
focusing in a specific area of the body.
305 Commentary, 325.3 - 325.5.
306 The release of obstacles through the extremities seems to be a common element in many
energetic practices of different traditions.
307 Even to the one right before, which has three ha and one phat. Presumably in that one, only the
three ha were mentioned because that is where the difference is, and since the phat remains the
same it was not even mentioned and just assumed.
308 Commentary 325.5 - 326.2. Benefits works better in English, although usually benefits is used
more for phan yon and qualities for yon tan, denoting good qualities.
113

As it is common with many Tibetan texts on esoteric practices, the benefits

or "good qualities" (yon tan) are disclosed after the written instructions. The

benefits of the five foundational magical movements are described as follows in

Commentary-which actually cites Quintessential Instructions: 309

It balances the channels and vital breath currents, clearing the interior of
the channels. All four 310 elements are in balance, the points of the body
function we11. 311 Awareness is lucid and the special or subtler312 vital
breath currents open up. These foundational magical movements are
ascribed to the state of mind of Pongyal Tsenpo ("Sovereign King of
Scholars ").313

Interestingly, the benefits of the foundational magical movements in

Quintessential Instructions are the same in Commentary, even though the

movements do not appear to be exactly the same. Of course, Shardza might

argue that the effects are the same, since he has only expanded the extremely

succinct and pithy account of the Quintessential Instructions to bring more clarity

from the oral instructions he received. Thus, one could say that each of the

movements of this set, complied by Pongyal Tsenpo and re-designed by Shardza

Tashi Gyaltsen, helps the practitioner in releasing external, internal and secret

309 Quintessential Instructions 633.2-3.


310 Commentary 326.1; Quintessential Instructions does not mention four (bzhi) but just "elements."
311 Ponlob says that nad du tshud is a phrase meaning that all functions well or runs smoothly
(Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston 2003).
312 Although the Tibetan word here is bye drag, usually translated as "special" or "particular,"
Ponlob explains that here it refers to the minor or subtler channels that branch out from the root
and the branch channels.
313 This line seems to apply to the following set in Quintessential Instructions 633.3. In other
words, it seems it mentions Pongyal Tsenpo not for the foundational magical movement set, but
for the first set of the root magical movement set. In Commentary, however, Shardza makes it clear
114

obstacles of the whole body. These obstacles could be understood as

interruptions to one's connection to the Ever-Excellent One, or one's nature of

mind, as explained in the homage. Or, and not necessarily incompatible with the

former, these obstacles can be viewed as provoking numerous physical, energetic

and mental disturbances. 314 Therefore, the act of clearing away of these obstacles

brings the practitioner to a healthier sense of wellbeing at all three levels of body,

energy and mind. Additionally, both texts also emphasize that having cleared

the channels of its obstructions, the channels and the vital breath currents that

circulate through them are under control. This, in turn, balances the four

elements (air, fire, water, and earth), making the whole body like a well-oiled

machine. With one's body as a cleansed receptacle and functioning well, the

mind's awareness gains lucidity and even the special or smaller vital breath

currents open Up.315 In simple terms, as the channels open up and the vital breath

currents circulate better, one becomes purer and wisdom increases. 316

It is important for the practitioner to remember at the end of each magical

movement to perform the shaking of the four limbs. This internally stirs all the

afflictions, obstacles and obscurations of not just oneself but also of all beings in

cyclic existence, to then be able to expel them away and liberate from them. That

that Pongyal Tsenpo designed or compiled both of these sets, mentioning him at the end of each
set.
314 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, August 2003.
315 Commentary 326.1, Quintessential Instructions 633.3.
316 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, April 2005.
115

focus of the mind, together with the strong exhalation with the sounds of ha and

phat, allows the practitioner to release all those obstacles and connect to an

undefiled state. This is where one tries to remain until the experience remains

fresh, and only then does one continue with the next magical movement. This

practice has the intended result that every being becomes a Buddha, a being

dispossessed of afflictions, obstacles and obscurations, which, as mentioned

before, is in accordance with the mahayana path. This, of course, is not expected

to happen in one session. In fact, sometimes the tradition will say one may not

necessarily even achieve it in one lifetime. However, the more one cleanses now,

the better s/he will be in the next rebirth. One could think of this process as

pouring clean water in a dirty bottle, our body-energy-mind system, stirring it

and pouring the water back out. The more one does this, the cleaner the bottle

will be. One could say that there is a cumulative effect in performing the magical

movements in terms of cleansing, and also in terms of helping becoming more

familiar and more settled with the Ever-Excellent state of mind.

II. Cycle 2: Root Magical Movement Cycle. 317

The root cycle is composed of two sets: the root itself, which has six

magical movements (rtsa ba drug), and the six root magical movements that

dispel obstacles (gegs sel drug).


116

2. Root Magical Movement Cycle

a. Root Magical Movement Set: six movements.

b. Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles: six movements.

Quintessential Instructions and Commentary are both in agreement here; however,

in Commentary Shardza condenses Quintessential Instructions' quite elaborate and

detailed explanation of the benefits of the first set and adds an extra magical

movement at the end of the second set, so it also contains six. Therefore, I will

provide the additions.

2a. Root Magical Movement Set. 318

The six root magical movements are: Striking the Athlete's


Hammer [to overcome] Anger; the Skylight of Primordial Wisdom
[that overcomes] Mental Fogginess; Rolling the Four [upper]
Energetic Centers319 [to overcome] Pride; Loosening the Corner
Knot [to overcome] Desire; Waving Upward the Silk Tassel [to
overcome] Jealousy; and the Stance of a Tigress' Leap [to overcome]
Drowsiness and Agitation. 32o

As we can see from the names, each magical movement aims at overcoming or

appeasing one of the five principal obstructive afflictions (nyon mongs) or poisons

317 Commentary 326.2 - 333.2; Quintessential Instructions, 633.3 - 637.4.


318 Commentary 326.4 - 329.3, Quintessential instructions 633.3- 635.1. Commentary maintains a
continuous enumeration, and so the next magical movement is number six. However, following
Quintessential Instructions and for simplicity's sake, I will number the magical movements set by
set, but at the beginning of each new set I will also note the numbers of the magical movements
according to Commentary in order to maintain its sense of continuity.
319 Probably relates to crown, heart, navel, and secret centers. Ponlob agrees with this
speculation,
117

(dug): delusion (gti mug), anger (zhe sdang), attachment ('dod chags), pride (nga

rgyal) and jealousy (ph rag dog). The last one overcomes the two main obstructions

to a stable meditative state of mind: drowsiness (bying) and agitation (rgod). The

names also reflect the way the body will move in order to achieve each goal,

maintaining the vital breath currents flowing in the pneumatic ma~~ala-dynamic

way, allowing the mind to settle in its own natural state. This set is the "root of

the root," and thus Tenzin Rinpoche maintains that it is the most important set

for a practitioner to learn and practice. 321 Also, together with its companion set in

this cycle, they provide significant correlations of each movement with one of the

five elements, their related wisdom qualities, the afflictions to be overcome, and

other correspondences that we will see below (also please see chart as figure 7, in

appendix III).

i. Striking the Athlete's Hammer to Overcome Anger. 322

This is the first movement of this set and the sixth continuing the

enumeration from the beginning of the text. Beginning by standing on one's

knees, with back straight and legs crossed in the back at the level of the ankles,

one interlaces the hands behind one's neck. Keeping this posture, one bends from

the waist forward, touching both knees with the respective elbows, and returns

320 Commentary 326.2 - 326.4; Quintessential Instructions, 633.3 - 633.4.


321 In other words, if someone does not have the time to learn and practice all the magical
movements s/he should focus on these ones (Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, oral communication,
Charlottesville, VA, 2000, and Houston, TX, 2004, amongst other times).
322 Commentary 326.4 - 327.1.
118

to the initial posture. Holding one's breath as usual, one repeats this movement

in a flowing motion seven times.

It could be said that one's body actually becomes the hammer, and by

holding the neck with both hands, one brings the hammer back and forth as one

bends to the front and comes up again seven times. One can imagine that anger

itself is being stricken or that by the exhaustion of the movement, anger

disappears or dissipates. Internally, as one inhales and gets into this posture, the

vital breath currents work particularly in the chest area, opening up any

blockages or constrictions. Furthermore, as we will see in the benefits section

below, this movement relates to the element of space. Thus, in the initial position

of keeping the back straight and chest area open-to which one returns each

repetition-, the anger seems to be dissolved by the space or within space.

ii. The Skylight of Primordial Wisdom that Overcomes Mental


Fogginess. 323

In the Skylight of Wisdom movement, one rolls back and forth in the

cross-legged posture with both arms bent to form two triangular skylights or

windows-each formed by the side of the body and the arm touching the

respective knee. In that back and forth rolling motion, the head is directed to

touch the ground or is going toward the ground. As one moves forward and

323 Ponlob remarks that Tibetan windows are usually 3-sided, without a glass, and generally in
the ceiling as a skylight.
119

backward, maintaining the skylight of window posture, the heaviness of mental

fogginess is said to dissipate like smoke through a skylight.

iii. Rolling the Four [Limbs like] Wheels, to Overcome Pride. 324

In this movement of rolling the four limbs, and at the same time the

energetic centers in our body, one keeps the torso straight and open. Swinging

back and forth in the cross-legged posture, grabbing one's toes with the

respective hand, one stands on one's knees when going forward, keeping the

body upright like a brush stroke (shad).325 As the body rolls like a wheel seven

times, the four radiant wheels of the crown, throat, heart and navel also spin. As

these open, the sense of stiffness, sometimes associated with pride and

haughtiness,326 is slowly relaxed (and eventually overcome).

iv. Loosening the Corner Knot to Overcome AttachmenP27

In the cross-legged posture, the elbows are extended to the side with the

hands pressing under the armpits with the thumbs. The other fingers point

toward the heart center, in the middle of the chest. The knot is the manifestation

of desire or attachment; thus, by liberating the knot, one can liberate his/her own

324 Commentary, 327.4 - 328.1. There are two possible ways of understanding this title. One is that
the four wheels refer to the crown, the heart, the navet and the secret centers, and the other is
that the limbs are rotating like wheels. In his last visit, Ponlob leaned more to this explanation
(Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, August 2003 and April 2005). See figure 8 to have more clarity
on this magical movement.
325 It seems that there is a play of words here with shad as straightening or aligning and as the
straight stroke of for example the A.
326 The colloquial for haughtiness is the onomatopoeic "tok tok" (krok krok), usually said together
with the torso inflated and a heavy demarcated march with the feet.
327 Commentary 328.1- 4.
120

attachments bringing the one elbow to its opposite knee. To perform this

movement one needs to twist and turn, freeing the stiffness and internally

freeing the attachment. This way, one twists seven times to the right and seven to

the left, alternating. As one performs this movement one feels like loosening a

knot.

v. Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel to Overcome Iealousy.328

In this magical movement, as one's body weight inclines on one side,

supported by that leg and arm, the other side feels free, with the free arm and leg

waving harmoniously upward like a silk tassel in the wind. Planting the left foot

and hand on the ground, the right leg and arm are waved skywards seven times.

Then, changing sides, one repeats waving with the left arm and leg. This

fluttering movement is felt not just in the arm and leg but also in the body,

especially the lower back, and may help release the internal tightness of

jealousy.329

vi. The Stance of a Tigress' Leap to Overcome Drowsiness and Agitation. 33o

The sixth magical movement of this set is an active engagement of the

whole body. One begins by standing and twisting forward in order to pass both

hands behind one's legs and touch the ears. In this position, one is supposed to

328 Commentary 328.4 - 329.l.


329 Also, when looking at the correlation with the organs, one can see how the kidneys in this
posture can feel more release. Actually each of the five movements relate to the five elements and
each have a corresponding organ (space:heart, earth:spleen, air:lungs, fire:liver and
water:kidneys).
121

hop seven times forward and seven backwards. On many occasions, I have seen

practitioners laugh as they try to engage in this posture. However, with

perseverance, as one maintains the posture and performs the movement, all

obstacles of drowsiness and agitation can be released. One feels awakened by the

active yet exhausting engagement of the pose. In other words, one feels

reinvigorated having overcome both hindering tendencies, drowsiness and

agitation, that distract from one's meditative state. Thus, one is able to return to a

calm and alert meditative state. Commentary reminds the practitioner to "[a]pply

the shaking and stirring, vocalizing the sounds ha and phat, in all [the magical

movements explained above]."331

Benefits.332
Commentary clusters the benefits of the first five root magical movements

and states that "these five root magical movements are the exalted perspective

(dgongs) of Pongyal Tsenpo."333 Then it proceeds with the benefits of the sixth

root magical movement without assigning authorship. Quintessential Instructions

assigns all six root magical movements to Pongyal Tsenpo.334

The condensed description in Commentary makes it simple to understand

that the first five root magical movements help overcome the five poisons or

330 Commentary, 329.1 - 3.


331 Commentary, 329.2 - 3.
332 Commentary, 329.3 - 330.1.
333 Commentary, 329.3.
334 Quintessential Instructions, 635.1.
122

afflictions (see figure 7 in appendix III). Shardza also condenses the detailed

benefits described in Quintessential Instructions, simplifying them, in Commentary,

as follows:

The benefits of these five, condensed here from the Quintessential


Instructions, are: the door to the channel of the five poisons closes
and the door to the channel of primordial wisdom opens. The five
aggregates are purified in their place and the celestial spheres of
the five Buddha dimensions are completed. The five elements are
mastered and the five essential lights dawn. 335

Therefore, the channel related to the poisons (i.e., the right one) closes down, and

the one related to the primordial wisdoms (i.e., left or heart one) opens up. This

actually means that each of the magical movements overcomes a particular

affliction, as mentioned in its name, and has a particular correlation (depicted in

appendix III, figure 7). The text provides the correlations but not explanations for

them. Thus, they might seem arbitrary. In discussions, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

has expressed interest in finding ways to test if these correlations were accurate.

The scientific studies described in chapter 4 can become a stepping-stone toward

that goal.

Benefits in Quintessential Instructions

What follows is Quintessential Instructions' in-depth and detailed account

of the benefits for each of these five root magical movements. For the benefit of

335 Commentary, 329.3 - 5.


123

the sixth magical movement, Commentary does follow Quintessential Instructions

almost word by word. Thus, I will provide its description after the first five.

Before describing the individual benefits, Quintessential Instructions states,

"[i]ntegrate with your experience (nyams su blangs pa) by combining (sprad) the

ten yogic gazes throughout day and night."336 Commentary, besides not

describing the detailed benefits for each magical movement, also lacks this line. It

is noteworthy that Shardza chooses to omit this seemingly important instruction

point present in both Quintessential Instructions and Experiential Transmission. 337

Yongdzin Rinpoche mentioned that the ten gazes are actually five day gazes and

five evening gazes, related to the following five: truth dimension, complete

dimension, manifested dimension, method and wisdom. 338In this way, one can

integrate the benefits of magical movement in everyday life-day and night,339

i. Striking the Athlete's Hammer


The benefits of Striking the athlete's hammer are that the path
which is the space 340 channel liberates, and the door to the anger
channel closes. Having liberated the consciousness aggregate, the
pure realm of the truth Buddha dimension dawns. The space

336 Quintessential Instructions, 635.1.


337 Experiential Transmission, 255.19 - 256.
338 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, oral communication, Charlottesville, VA, October 2004.
339 As Ponlob Thinley Nyima explained, the way to integrate them is in relation to the direct
visionary or leap over practices, and Shardza actually addresses this in "The Four Direct Leap
Visionary Practices" (Thad rgal snang bzht) within his Heartdrops of the Ever-Excellent One (Kunzang
nying thig) (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, TX, April 2005). Also see
Heartdrops of the Ever-Excellent One-an oral explanation of this text exists as Heartdrops of
Dharmakaya-, p. 62.4. Ponlob adds that, in that text, Shardza also relates the gazes to the five
elements (Ponlob added that he learnt this from his teacher Lama Nyima Tsertan (Nyi rna Tse
brtan), in Dolpo, Nepal. Unfortunately, an elaboration of this topic is outside of the scope of this
study.
340 Here I am using "space" for nam mkha even though usually I translate it as "sky."
124

essence dawns and the collection of the four diseases is liberated.


Having liberated the object of knowledge in its own place, the
external, and internal [and secret] interferences are cleared. The
space does not set and the emptiness wisdom dawns. 341

In terms of disease, the text claims that all four diseases (wind, bile, phlegm and

the combination of these three) will be liberated. As the external, internal and

secret interferences are cleared, consciousness can then rest naturally in its own

place (i.e., being undisturbed). This is beautifully voiced in the last line, "The

space does not set and emptiness wisdom dawns."342

According to Tibetan tradition, wisdom has five qualities, sometimes

called five wisdoms (ye shes lnga). Each of these five root magical movements

correlates to one of the wisdom qualities, respectively: emptiness (stong nyid),

mirror-like (me long), knowing things as they are (ji ita'i), discrimination (sor

rtogs) and knowing the varieties (ji snyed).343

ii. Skylight of Primordial Wisdom

As for the benefits of the Skylight of Primordial Wisdom [that


overcome] Mental Fogginess, having liberated the form aggregate
in its own place, the essence of earth dawns. The complete Buddha
dimensions dawns,344 and the expanded celestial sphere(s)345are
seen. The door to the mental fogginess channel closes and the

341 Quintessential Instructions 635.1- 635.3.


342 Ibid, 635.2 - 635.3.
343 For an explanation of them, see Jeffrey Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness, London, England:
Wisdom Publications, 1983, among others. Also, look into Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's
description of them in Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in forthcoming Ligmincha Institute transcript
from oral teachings in Serenity Ridge, VA, July 2004.
344 It is worth noticing that it is plural (i.e., many complete Buddha dimensions).
345 As shown earlier, I am using "celestial sphere" for 'khyil 'khor or mandala in this translation
chapter.
125

mirror-like wisdom is completed. The form realm is mastered, and


mountains and rocks are not obstructive. 346

In simpler terms, the earth element dawns, clearing one's mental fogginess and

allowing the practitioner to access the complete Buddha dimension(s). So it

seems that, by closing the door to the mental fogginess channel, confusion or

mental fog is dispelled, and the mirror-like wisdom is realized. Having mastery

over the form realm, mountains, rocks or any other form cannot obstruct one's

clarity. In other words, as the mind is clear as a mirror, none of the appearances

disturb its clarity.

iii. Rolling the Four Limbs Like a Wheel.

As for the benefits of Rolling the four limbs like a wheel to


overcome pride, the formations aggregate liberates and the air
essence dawns. The essential Buddha dimension is seen and the
mandala of the three Buddha dimensions dawns. The door to the
pride channel closes and one realizes the wisdom that knows
things as they are. One masters the air element and the swift
walking is strengthened and expanded. 347

Here, the practitioner has access to the essential Buddha dimension (ngo bo nyid

sku) and the celestial sphere or mandala of the three Buddha dimensions (i.e.,

truth, complete and manifested dimensions). This brings about the closing of the

door to the pride channel and allows the manifestation of the wisdom of

knowing things as they are. After mastering the air element, one can achieve the

special power (grub, siddhi) of swift-walking, described as being able to walk

346 Quintessential Instructions 635.3-4.


126

slightly above the ground and cover great distances quickly.348In other words, by

mastering the air element, one can move like it.

iv. Loosening the Corner Knot.

As for the benefits of Loosening the Corner Knot to Overcome


Desire, the feeling aggregate liberates and the fire essence dawns.
The diverse manifested Buddha dimensions are completed and the
manifestation celestial sphere(s) dawn(s). The door to the desire
channel closes and the discrimination wisdom dawns. One masters
the fire element and the fire and warmth of the yogic inner heat
blazes. 349

Attachment (chags) here means that one is trapped by desire or lust. The

loosening of the knot or trap of desire, I believe, is an effective metaphor. The

power of the fire element liberates the aggregate of feeling and allows the

practitioner to have access to the various manifested Buddha dimensions and

celestial spheres, which, according to Mass of Fire, are at the navel,350 Therefore,

the door to the desire channel closes, allowing discriminating wisdom to dawn,

and with it, the possibility of understanding the uniqueness of each

manifestation within their varieties is made possible. As one masters the fire

347 Ibid, 635.4 - 5.


348 I have heard some of such stories, and Ponlob Thinley Nyima confirms, having heard many of
them (personal communication, Houston, August, 2003).
349 Quintessential Instructions 635.5 - 6.
350 In Mass of Fire (p. 27), Shardza explains how, according to the Ye khri mtha' sel and the Mkha'
'gro gsang mrdzod, the different energetic centers are explained as channel petals facing upwards
and of different amounts for different energetic centers. Such explanations are common in
Buddhist and Hindu tantric texts. However, it is interesting that different texts describe
differently the form at each energetic center.
127

element, the warmth that is developed through the yogic inner heat practice

seems to be maintained without much effort.351

v. Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel

As for the benefits of Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel to Overcome


Jealousy; the aggregate of conceptions liberates and the essence of
water dawns. The fully awakened Buddha dimension is complete,
and the five celestial spheres dawn. The door to the jealousy
channel closes and the wisdom that knows the varieties expands.
One masters the water element and has no lethargy.352

When the element of water dawns, the aggregate of conceptions liberates,

allowing the practitioner to have access to the fully awakened Buddha dimension

(mngon par byang chub sku) and the five celestial spheres. Through closing the

door to the jealousy channel, one is aware of the quality of the wisdom of

knowing the varieties. After mastering the water element, one overcomes

lethargy, finding this relaxed and stable water-like state of mind a support for

understanding harmonious existence of different varieties. This is very

important; it is like a "purer" water element quality, since water can also bring

"too much" comfort, and thus lethargy-like earth. However, the benefit is that

one masters that quality with balance: relaxed but not lethargic.

vi. Stance of a Tigress' Leap

Regarding the Stance of a tigress' leap [to overcome] lethargy and


agitation, the force of the powerful vital breath currents is
complete, and lethargic mental fogginess purifies in its own place.

351 Many monks, especially in Menri monastery, have mentioned how, after mastering inner heat,
the result of being able to maintain that heat is expected (fieldwork, February 2002).
352Quintessential Instructions 635.6 - 636.1.
128

The inner currents and the mind enter the central channel from
below, and [their] moving liberates in its own place. 353

The entering of the inner breath currents and the mind into the central channel

(as is also mentioned in the benefits of the foundational magical movement cycle)

is a very important characteristic of higher tantric practices. Allowing obstacles

to purify and liberate in their own place is an exemplar Dzogchen trait. As the

obstacles are liberated, so are conceptual thoughts. Ponlob adds that the agent of

the moving mind liberating accumulated thoughts into the central channel is also

connected to direct leap visionary practices mentioned above, which are based

on breakthrough practice. These are the two Dzogchen practices par excellence.

The latter emphasizes primordial purity (ka dag) and the former presence in the

spontaneous manifestation (lhun grub). Therefore, as magical movement works

with both the subtle body physiology and the mind resting in its own natural

place, it is said to share aspects of higher tantra and of Dzogchen. In chapter 2, I

suggested that we could also see each magical movement as creating an external

and an internal ma1J~ala. The benefits here mention that through each magical

movement a different ma1J~ala or celestial realm related to one of the Buddha

dimensions can be accessed. Pursuing this further we could see these as the

secret, divine, or very subtle ma1J~alas.

353 Quintessential Instructions 636.1- 2.


129

2b. Root Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles.

As we have seen, in Quintessential Instructions there are five root magical

movements that clear away obstacles. However, Shardza includes a sixth one in

Commentary. The origin of this sixth movement is not clear. Since Drugyalwa

does not include it in Experiential Transmission,354 it is certainly after the 13th

century. Shardza himself or one of his teachers probably added this movement,

possibly as a way to set a parallel structure to the six root (of the root) magical

movements.

The first five root magical movements that clear away obstacles are: Duck

Drinking Water; Wild Yak (drong mo) Butting Sideways; Female Donkey in the

[reclining] to Sleep Stance; Holding the Breath [like] a Sparrow-Hawk; and

Rolling Up the Limits of the Four Continents, to which Shardza adds, Extending

the Limits of the Four Continents. 355 Interestingly, the five movements in

Quintessential Instructions are standing, but the added sixth is sitting, while in the

root of the root magical movement it is the opposite, all are sitting and the sixth

is standing. 356

The movement's name aids the practitioner in understanding the

instruction better. The first four movements of this set have names of animals

engaged in a particular action, which helps the practitioner to visualize the

354 Experiential Transmission, pp. 257-258.


355 Quintessential Instruction, 636.2 - 637.4; Commentary, 330.1 - 333.2.
130

specific movement. Indian and Chinese yogas have also used names of animals

in many of their postures for the same reason. 357

i. Duck Drinking Water.358

The first of this set (and twelfth following Commentary's counting) is the

Duck Drinking Water magical movement. Interestingly, Experiential Transmission

calls each a "posture-method" (bca' thabs). This is probably a point that

Drugyalwa wants to emphasize, since it does not come from Quintessential

Instructions. I believe this accentuates the role of the body posture as a unique

method in magical movement, guiding the breath and mind in harmony.

In this particular posture-method, the practitioner is told to relate to the

sense of being like a duck or goose. Therefore, standing and straightening one's

body and with both hands at the waist--thumbs pointing forward, one opens the

feet with heels close to each other and toes pointing outward diagonally,

imitating a duck's stance. As one inhales and holds the breath naturally and

allows it to spread pervasively, one first opens the chest area and then bends at

the waist, stooping forward in a motion of reaching the head to the ground as if

to drink water from it. Then, standing up, one slightly bends the head backwards

356 The fifth in that set, the "Fluttering Skyward of the Silk Tassel," is not exactly sitting, but it is
not standing either (see above).
357 This similarity could be understood as a way these traditions have influenced each other.
However, since the names are different and autochthonous, the observation of surroundings and
trying to imitate them could also be considered as a universal human trait. This could also be an
interesting topic for further research.
358 Commentary, 330.3 - 5.
131

at the nape, keeping shoulders and chest open and relaxed. 359 One bends

backwards and stoops forwards seven times. One concludes with the

characteristic shaking and stirring of the limbs, while visualizing the stirring of

all cyclic existence and exhaling the stale breath sounding ha and phat.360 Again,

one maintains the intention that all sentient beings are cleared from their

obstacles. The chest being open relates to the space element, as we also saw in the

first magical movement of the previous set. In the benefits section, we will see

how the correlations continue and expand into those overcoming physical

illness.

ii. Wild Yak Butting Sideways.361

In trying to imitate the sideways butting of a wild yak, the right leg is a

step in front of the left,362 and, having inhaled and held naturally the vital breath,

one places the weight of one's torso to that leg. Then, following with the

shoulder and head, which creates the butting, one closes this part of the

movement with a little jump across the other leg that follows almost by inertia. In

this way, one turns sequentially, alternating seven times to each side and feeling

the power of the butting without letting it disturb one's balance.

359 Commentary provides more detail than Quintessential Instructions here.


360 Commentary (330.4) has ha and phat. However, both Quintessential Instructions and Experiential
Transmission only mention ha. See earlier comments on this.
361 Commentary, 330.5 - 331.2.
362 I have seen taught the other way around during oral instructions. However, they also say that,
since it is done to both sides, which one goes first is not that critical.
132

Although this movement looks very different than its parallel one of the

previous set, this one is standing and jumping, and Skylight of Wisdom is sitting

and rolling, it has a similar function in terms of swirling internally to then release

mental fogginess and bring clarity to the mind of the practitioner. This clarity is

heightened by the usual concluding movement of shaking and stirring the limbs,

together with the exhalation of the stale breath sounding ha and phat and the

prescribed visualization.

iii. Female Donkey [reclining] to Sleep.363

The female donkey is also performed while standing, but moving into a

reclining stance as if going to sleep. One begins by standing upright with feet

shoulder-width apart. With the hands at the waist, one turns and twists with the

torso downwards and with the right elbow trying to touch the left knee,

imagining being like a donkey who is going to lay on the ground to sleep. Still in

the standing posture and without actually laying on the ground, one then turns

and twists to the other side, trying to reach the right knee with the left elbow. As

one turns and brings the torso up slightly, it is like awakening from this sleeping

posture into the rising one (nyallangs). This is similar to the standing up on one's

knees in Rolling the Four Limbs like a Wheel, also opening the chest and

awakening the mind. The Female Donkey Going to Sleep follows a pattern of

alternating between trying to go to sleep (nyal) and rising up (langs) seven times.
133

It then concludes with the usual shaking and stirring of the limbs, together with

the exhalation and visualization.

iv. Holding the Breath Like a Sparrow-Hawk. 364

"Holding the breath" (rlung 'dzin), in this context, can also have the

meaning "upholding or soaring in the wind." Ponlob explains that the sparrow-

hawk is a small kind of hawk that can hold its breath body while the wings move

a little bit.365 As one stands with both feet together and both hands at the waist,

one inhales and holds naturally, maintaining a straight torso and allowing the

breath to spread pervasively. One is instructed to lift the heels slightly, resting

mostly on the balls of one's feet. From that stance, one motions the head towards

the right, following with the torso moving sideways and downwards, including

a subtle shaking like the soaring of the sparrow-hawk. One performs the same

movement to the left and then to the center, looking skywards and supported by

a slight upward hop. After repeating the pattern right, left and center seven

times, one does the concluding shaking, exhalation and visualization. The

holding of the breath for all seven repetitions can be difficult in this movement.

This in itself can bring more inner heat or motivate the related fire element. As in

Loosening the Corner Knot, the trap of desire is liberated, especially at the end of

the movement. In other words, after a long upholding of the breath and guiding

363 Commentary, 331.2 - 4. Also see photo as figure 9 in appendix III.


364 Commentary, 331.4 - 332.1.
365 Ponlob Ihinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, IX, May 2005.
134

it with the sparrow-hawk-like movement throughout the whole torso, the

exhalation releases obstacles and pressure of the holding, allowing one to

connect to the clarity of the fire and the resting in the freed mind.

v. Rolling Up the Limits of the Four Continents. 366

Standing upright with feet shoulder-width apart, the arms resting by the

sides and palms opened forward, one inhales and holds naturally. With a slight

jump, one brings the right leg to touch with its sole above the left knee.

Simultaneously, one crosses the arms over the chest, right over left, and places

one's hands under the opposite armpits. The four continents are the four limbs,

which are rolling in this movement. One alternates the legs and arms, jumping in

this manner seven times to each side. The leg that crosses corresponds to the arm

that is above when crossing. After alternating legs and arms seven times to each

side, one concludes with the usual shaking, exhalation and visualization.

Experiential Transmission states, "[a]pply (lit. "take in hand," lag len)

following practical guidance (lit. "red instructions," dmar khrid) from oral

wisdom."367 As mentioned earlier, it is not unusual for part of the instruction to

be passed orally by the lamas. Following that model, besides some adjustments

of the posture to clarify the meager description in Commentary (it is even briefer

in Quintessential Instructions and Experiential Transmission), Ponlob Thinley

Nyima not only explained it in more detail, but also demonstrated this
135

movement, especially the jumping as the arms and legs roll.368 That explanation

led me also to see the parallelism to Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel. Although

in that movement one is not jumping, the movement of the hands and legs in

both movements can help the practitioner be in touch with the water element to

which these movements relate.

vi. Extending the Limits of the Four Continents. 369

This is the magical movement that Shardza adds, making it the sixth

movement of this set and seventeenth of the text. Sitting in a cross-legged

posture that is described here as "adamantine cross-legged posture" (rdo rje sgyil

grung)-also popularly known as "full lotus" posture-, one makes a fist with

both hands with the thumbs pressing on the base of the ring fingers, also

sometimes called the adamantine (rdo rje, vajra) fist. 370 Placing the fists on the

ground with palms down and loading one's weight on the fists, one raises the

body off the ground, rotates counterclockwise and descends. 371 In this way, one

366 Commentary, 332.1-2.


367 Experiential Transmission, p. 258.3.
368 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication (Houston, October 2002).
369Commentary, 332.2 - 4. See photo as figure 10 in appendix III.
370 This is, for example, mentioned in Commentary 324.5, when describing the hand purification
magical movement, among the foundational magical movements that Shardza expanded. As
exemplified in these two cases, I have seen this fist described with position of the thumb
sometimes inside and other times outside the ring finger. In this case Shardza just describes the
hand posture without naming it adamantine or otherwise.
371 Ponlob also mentioned and demonstrated that in some cases the movement is done without
rotation, just lifting the body up and descending. In this way bskor is understood as "movement"
rather than rotation (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, TX, 2004). On the other hand, in all other
occasions reviewing these movements, this one was explained and demonstrated as rotating and
explicitly counterclockwise.
136

extends the limits of the four continents that, again, are the four limbs. While the

latter movement dispelled the obstacles by rotating the limbs, here the limbs are

bound, and the rotation of the whole body in that posture generates a sense of

expansion that helps clear away obstacles. This rotation is done seven times, after

which one performs the usual concluding shaking, exhalation and visualization.

Benefits.
Togme Shigpo ("Non-conceptual Destroyer," Rtog med zhig po) is

considered the author or compiler of this set. 372 Commentary says:

The benefits of these, according to the Quintessential Instructions,


are: 373 The Duck [drinking water movement] liberates from the four
collections of diseases and opens the doorway of the channel of
sky;" the Wild Yak [butting movement] liberates from the diseases
of phlegm and opens the doorway of the channel of earth; the
Female Donkey [lying down as in sleep movement] liberates from
diseases of bile374 and opens the doorway of the channel of
air/wind; the Hawk [upholding the wind movement] liberates
from diseases of heat and opens the doorway of the channel of fire
and the [two] Four Continents [magical movements] free [the
practitioner] from diseases of cold and open the doorway of the
channel of water.375

These benefits have interesting parallels with those of the previous set, as I

briefly mentioned in the above descriptions. Both sets follow the same order of

the elements: space, earth, air, fire, and water, and the last movement of both is

like a combination of the five elements. The root of the root set places more

372 Quintessential Instructions 637.3 - 4, Commentary, 333.2.


373 Quintessential Instructions 637.1 - 637.4.
374 Quintessential Instructions says it liberates from phlegm and bile (637.2)
375 Commentary, 332.4 - 333.2.
137

emphasis on the afflictive obstructions (nyon mongs) related to the mental

obscurations (sgrib), while the set of magical movements that clear away

obstacles place more emphasis on the diseases (nad). As for the collection of the

four diseases mentioned in the benefits of the Duck Drinking Water, Ponlob

explains that this refers to the imbalances of wind (rlung), of bile (mkhris pa), of

phlegm (bad kan) and of the combination of the three, thus making four. 376 These

are identical to, and probably derive from Tibetan medicine. In figure 11 (in

appendix III), the movements of both sets are shown side by side, to bring more

clarity to the correlations I refer to here.

As for the common or general benefits of this set, the practice of these

movements is said to "cause one to possess the power of speed-walking, ignite

the warmth [of one's body] and reverse the aging process."377

In brief, the root magical movement set, designed by Pongyal Tsenpo, is

believed to work more by opening the door of the five elements and closing the

door of the five poisons in order to allow primordial wisdom and its

manifestation as the five celestial spheres or mafl~alas of Buddha (or enlightened)

dimensions and the five lights to manifest. The root magical movement set that

clears away obstacles, designed by Togme Shigpo, helps overcome illnesses so

that the practitioner can actually have the experiences of celestial spheres and

376 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, October 2002.


377 Quintessential Instructions (637.4) reads tshe 10 log gyur thub par, "power over the reversing of
I

one's years of one's life."


138

lights that arise from being in touch with one's primordial wisdom. These

movements can also bring extraordinary powers through the manipulation of the

vital breath currents, the focus of the mind and the body movements guiding

them, such as speed-walking, reverse age and so forth. Simply stated, these root

magical movements can bring mystical, medical and magical results.

III. Cycle 3: Branch Magical Movement Cycle. 378

Similar to the root cycle, the branch or ancillary magical movement cycle

is composed of two sets: the root or main branches and the ancillary branches or

those that clear away obstacles. 379 Each set has five magical movements.

3. Branch Magical Movement Cycle

a. Root [or Principal Branch magical movement set]: five movements.

b. [Branch magical movement set that] Clear Away Obstacles: five


movements.

3a. Main Branches Set. 380

The five main branch magical movements are: the Natural Descent (rang

'beb) of the Four Elements, the Peacock Drinking Water, Collecting the Four

378 Commentary, 333.2, Quintessential Instructions 637.4.


379 Quintessential Instructions begins by calling them root and branches (637.4) and later (638.5)
calls them gag sel, which is probably why Commentary uses the latter classification.
380 Commentary, 333.2 - 335.5, Quintessential Instructions 637.4 - 638.5.
139

Stalks (sdong po), Rolling (bsgril) the Four Upper and Lower [limbs] and Striking

(rdeg) the Four Knots (rgya mdud).

i. Natural Descent of the Four Elements. 381

In the first magical movement of this set (and eighteen altogether), one

assumes the cross-legged position and places the palms down slightly, pressing

upon both thighs. As the forearms and torso are straightened, the channels are

straightened too. Bringing the head and upper body down and forward with a

slight shake towards the ground, one visualizes the motion as a smooth descent

of the elements, like snowflakes falling to the ground. Coming back up with the

upper body straightened, one is instructed to harmoniously move the head and

torso down as before for a total of seven times. As this smooth descent and

ascent is done, as in all movements, by holding the breath pervasively, the inner

obstacles dissolve smoothly too. With a sense of lightness at the end of the seven

repetitions, one concludes with the standard shaking of the limbs along with the

exhalation and visualization.

ii. Peacock Drinking Water.382

Seated with legs extended in front and parallel to each other, one joins or

crosses 383 one's forearms behind one's back, with the thumbs pressing the ring

381 334.1
Commentary, 333.5 - 334.2.
382
383Snol can mean either "cross" or "join." I have seen it multiple times in Menri and Tritan
Norbutse performed by joining the hands. Ponlob, on the other hand, says that it should be
140

fingers of each hand. Bending the body forward, one imagines going to drink

water in the ground in front of oneself, with the forehead reaching or going

toward the space in between the knees. As one raises the head back up and to the

right over the shoulder, one imagines swallowing the water. Then, swinging the

head over the left shoulder, one again imagines swallowing water. Finally,

bringing the head to the center, one looks upward, imagines swallowing water

for a third time and then repeats the whole pattern seven times. This movement,

elongating one's body forward and upright-including right and left sides-,

stretches the channels so that the vital breath currents flow unruffled. Thinking

of the name not just as a way to describe the movement but taking its peacock

allegory a step further, one can feel that one swallows the poisons and converts

them into nurturing nectar. After feeling nurtured by the vital breath currents in

that way, one concludes as usual.

iii. Collecting the Four Stalks. 384

The four stalks, similar to the continents in previous movements, refer

here to the four limbs. In a seated posture with legs bent at the knees and lying

sideways on the ground, one places the soles of the feet to touch each other.

Grabbing the big toes with both hands, as Quintessential Instructions points out,385

one rolls backward and forward. Going backwards, one places the backbone on

crossing one's arms in the back (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, October
2002).
384 Commentary, 334.2 - 4.
141

the ground and stretches the arms and legs skywards, releasing the toes and

allowing the limbs to separate, radiating outward. Rolling forwards, one collects

the four limbs like stalks, returning to the starting posture. The emphasis is

clearly in the gathering as one comes forward. After the openness and radiating

backwards, it can feel like retrieving nurturing qualities that are collected and

gathered as one goes forward. Repeating this movement seven times, with a

sense of fulfillment, one concludes with the usual shaking of the limbs,

exhalation and visualization.

iv. Rolling the Four Upper and Lower [limbs ].386

Maintaining the seated posture, but now in a cross-legged position, this

magical movement works with the. limbs contracted, rather than radiating and

being brought together as in the previous magical movement. Grabbing the toes

of each foot with one's fingers,387 one rolls backward, touching the feet to the

ground. Then, rolling forward, one brings the forehead to the ground (or at least

towards touching the ground). This back and forth movement can feel like the

charging of a dynamo. Charging in that way seven times, one concludes as usual,

with a strong sense of liberation in the exhalation, shaking and visualization.

385 Quintessential Instructions 638.2.


386 Commentary, 334.4 - 5.
387 I have also seen it where the arms are crossed, grabbing the toes of the opposite foot.
142

v. Striking the Four KnotS. 388

The last magical movement of this set is done in the adamantine posture

mentioned in Extending the Limits, of the previous set. Bringing the right and

left hands in between the cove (khug) of the knees, one holds each calf from

underneath with its corresponding hand. Inhaling and making sure that the

natural holding is settled, one lifts and rotates the whole body seven times

counterclockwise. Its similarity to the sixth magical movement that Shardza

added in the last set, but with different hand placement, makes me believe that

Shardza was inspired by this magical movement to design Extending the Limits

of the Four Continents. As for the rotation, in the same way I pointed out in that

movement, Ponlob Thinley Nyima asserts that is sometimes performed by just

lifting the body up and letting it fall down, controlled. 389 On the other hand, His

Holiness Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima comments on the direction of the rotation. He

asserts that not only for this movement, but in general, when a Bonpo text does

not indicate the direction, the rotation should always be "Bonpo way," i.e.,

counterclockwise (vis a vis the Buddhist performing them clockwise).39o

As for the four knots, I believe it refers to the limbs again, and, actually,

the "four-fold knot" might be a better way of conceiving it. The striking helps to

388 Commentary, 334.5 - 335.2.


389 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, August 2003. He also performed it in
that way and said that both ways were correct. This use of bskor would follow the same line of
thought of 'khor meaning "rotating" or "wheel," but also "movement," as we have discussed in
the introduction.
143

release the knot(s), which can also mean an obstacle or a constriction. In other

words, the knot does not allow the vital breath currents to flow properly, and

thus with the striking it frees the knots, allowing the vital breath currents to clean

and nurture internally. Commentary reaffirms at the end of this set, I/[s]haking

vigorously the four forms (gsugs, i.e., limbs) and reciting the sounds ha phat, are

required in all [magical movements]."391

Benefits.
As before, Commentary cites Quintessential Instructions for the benefits of

these magical movements:

[One] liberates from diseases of the four elements [allowing] the


vital breath currents together with the mind to enter the essential
points. Appearances magically liberate and adherence to mistaken
appearances is reversed. The strength of the body extends and one
gains natural mastery over the four elements. External and internal
obstacles are cleared allowing the channels and the vital breath
currents to function well. The strengths of body oil, its heat and
excellent luminosity, extend. 392

Similar to the root magical movements, especially the root magical movements

that clear away obstacles, the elements correlate to illnesses in this set. Both

Quintessential Instructions and Commentary only mention general benefits of this

set and not separate benefits for each magical movement. However, we find here

the addition of the obstacles related to the mind. The phrase gnad du tshud, which

appears twice here and will appear a few times again in these texts, although

390 His Holiness Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima, Menri monastery, February 2002.
391 Commentary, 335.2.
144

literally meaning "entering the essential point" or "capture with precision,"393

Ponlob observes that it is a well-known expression to mean that things are

"functioning well." He explains it as being analogous to the gears of a machine

being greased. 394 The mention of the increase of the body oil, heat and

luminosity, can be regarded as signs that the machine is working well and that

the practitioner has conquered the elements-in particular here, fire.

The author of these magical movements, Lhundrub Muthur (Lhun grub

Mu thur,395 "Spontaneously Perfected (One), holder of the Mu lineage), is not

mentioned until the end of the next set, since he has designed both sets of the

branch magical movement cycle.

3b. Branch Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles. 396

This set is composed of five magical movements: the Great Garuda

Flapping (rdeb) its Wings, Peacock Stirring Water, Collecting the Four [limbs]

Clearing Away the Limitations, the One-Sided Gallop of the Antelope (e na) and

One-Sided Pulse of the Sha ri Deer. 397

392 Commentary, 335.2 - 5, Quintessential Instructions 638.3 - 6.


393 Ranjung Yeshe dictionary, record 65310.
394 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, August 2003.
395 I am reading 'thur instead thur in Commentary, 338.2 and in Quintessential Instructions 639.4.
Mu is one of the five Bbnpo family lineages.
396 Commentary 335.5- 338.3, Quintessential Instructions 638.5 - 639.4.
397 It is not too clear the exact word or its origins, but it seems to describe a kind of deer.
Quintessential Instructions has two different spellings for it, sha na'i (638.5) and sha ra na, and
probably following the latter Commentary has sha ra or sha ra'i.
145

L Great Garuda Flapping its Wings. 398

The first of this set (and twenty-third of the general count) begins in a

standing posture and ready to "fly."399 Standing upright like a brush stroke

(shad), one extends the right arm skyward. With a small jump, one

simultaneously bends that arm to touch the right shoulder-blade with the right

hand and touches the buttocks with the back of the right heel. Quintessential

Instructions explains it simply, saying that one should extend and contract the

corresponding arm and leg simultaneously.400 Alternating this movement with

the right and left side seven times, one amply opens the chest area with each

extension of the arm or "wing" and feels lighter with the jumping (Le., flying).

The conclusion is as usual, shaking the limbs, exhaling sounding ha and phat and

visualizing the clearing away of obstacles from all beings, including oneself.

ii. Peacock Stirring the Water. 401

Continuing in the standing posture, one brings one's extended arms down

from being in front of one's chest to the ground around the feet. Shaking both

hands simultaneously to the front, right and left sides, one imagines to stirring

water and then returns to the upright posture. This movement can also feel long

398 Commentary 336.1 - 3.


399 In fact, all but one magical movement among this set, are movements that begin in a standing
position.
400 Quintessential Instructions (638.5 - 6) uses a simpler description, but none of the texts mention
the jumping. However, in all oral instructions I have received, it is shown that way, and Ponlob
has laid emphasis on it too (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, August 2002).
401 Commentary 336.3 - 5.
146

in terms of holding one's breath, although the stretching and elongation of arms

helps in creating more internal space for the air to move. The stirring or shaking

of the water also creates a rippling effect in stirring oneself internally. After

repeating this pattern seven times, one ends with the usual shaking, exhalation

and visualization, clearing away all that was stirred.

iii. Collecting the Four [limbs] Clearing Away Limitations. 402

This difficult magical movement is the only one within this set that does

not begin in a standing posture. Squatting down without bending the back, one

collects the four limbs by having the soles of the feet touching and the hands

holding them. Hopping seven times forward and seven backward while

maintaining that binding posture, one clears away the limitations (mtha'). These

limitations can certainly be physical, such as flexibility and strength, but also

energetic and mental. In that regard, it can relate to overcoming the collection of

the four diseases as part of the physical limitations and to clearing away one's

conceptual mind as part of the mental limitations. One concludes as usual.

iv. One-Sided Gallop of the Antelope. 403

This long one-footed gallop of the antelope magical movement has

twenty-eight steps before exhaling at the end. Standing on the right foot while

holding the top of left the foot (i.e., the ankle and upper part of the foot) with the

left hand, one places the sole of that foot in the right leg inguinal cavity. In this
147

posture, one hops forward on the right leg while simultaneously swatting with

the right hand downwards and close to the hip (even to the right buttock).

Taking seven small hops forward, one then turns around and takes seven small

hops in the other direction. Still holding the breath, one changes the positions of

the legs (i.e., standing on the left leg and holding the right foot with the right

hand placing it on the left leg's inguinal cavity) and hops on the left leg seven

times forward, and turning around, seven times backwards. This jumping seems

to create some internal stir, which, together with the release provoked with the

swatting of the hand, helps to clear away obstacles. After twenty-eight steps, one

is ready to exhale thoroughly, releasing external, internal and secret obstacles.

One concludes with the usual shaking, exhalation and visualization.

v. The One-Sided Pulse of the Sha ri Deer. 404

Similar in some ways to the preceding movement, the one-sided pulse of

the deer also includes three bows at each step. Standing upright, the sole of the

right foot presses perpendicularly against the side of the left leg, forming a

triangular window shape (similar to the one formed by the arms in the Skylight

of Wisdom in the root of the root set).405 In that posture, one brings the arms

from the side to the back and extends them behind one's back with the hands

402 Ibid, 336.5 - 337.1.


403 Commentary 337.1 - 3.
404 Commentary 337.4 - 338.1.
405 Although not necessarily explained in this way, it was demonstrated to me in oral instruction
in Nepal, India and the US.
148

crossing in the same position as the Peacock Drinking Water, in the main branch

set. In each hop, one bends the torso, shoulders and head forward three times,

and, at the same time, the hands in the back make a downward clearing

movement. 406 After hopping forward seven times, with three bows each time,

one turns around and does seven hops with three bows each to the other side.

Shardza emphasizes that the whole movement is done "with one inhalation."407

This extensive movement concludes with a well-deserved exhalation, shaking

and visualization.

Benefits.
Commentary states:

As for the benefits of these, from the former (i.e., Quintessential


Instructions): the obstacles from the four elements are liberated and
the door to the channel of the elements is opened. The elements are
balanced and [thus] the collection of the four diseases is
harmless. 408

Quintessential Instructions actually says "liberating obstacles from the five

elements" instead of four, but continues by mentioning "the door of the channel

of the four elements is opened."409 Shardza clearly condenses the meaning of

Quintessential Instructions, but cites it as if it was a direct quotation (as we have

406 Thur se/ is usually used in the context of the downward and clearing vital breath current seen
both in Tibetan medicine as well as in channels-breaths practices. In oral instructions, both in
Tritan Norbutse and in Menri, I have always seen the hands in the back like in the Peacock
Drinking Water without mention of the downward movement. However, I feel that utilizing the
hands in this way can bring even more clearing of obstacles.
407 Commentary 338.1. This remark is absent in Quintessential Instructions.
408 Commentary, 338.1- 3.
149

seen before).410 In terms of the elements, mentioning four or five depends on if

the element of space or sky is included or left aside, since sometimes it is

considered as the container of the four elements and not an element in itself.411

In any event, as the obstacles from the elements are liberated and the door of the

element's channel is opened, the elements come into balance, and thus one

cannot be harmed by disease. This is in accordance with the Tibetan medical

theory, which states that illness is the result of an imbalance of one's elements. In

magical movement, the restoration to balance is done by the pneumatic force of

the vital breath currents guided by the physical movements and the focus of the

mind.

Lhundrub Muthur is mentioned here as the author of both sets of the

branch magical movement cycle. (No author was mentioned in the benefits for

the previous set.) 412 The branch cycle is analogous to the root cycle in that each

begins with a root set followed by a set of magical movements that clear away

obstacles. However, it is not clear if Lhundrub Muthur designed the branch cycle

in this way, or, more likely, it is the product of the compiler of the whole text,

409 Quintessential Instructions 639.3 - 4.


410 To give Shardza the benefit of the doubt, it could also be that the edition he was working with
had it in that way. Furthermore, he might have been working from oral tradition and without a
written version.
411 It would be interesting to know if each individual magical movement of this set is believed to
open the doors of the individual channels of the four elements and to clear all four kinds of
disease, paralleling the root cycle. Another question to ask the lamas of the lineage.
412 Commentary, 338.2 - 3.
150

which I assume to be Bumje 0, as he is the one who compiled the sets and

created the cycles as the overarching categories.

IV. Cycle Four: Special Magical Movement Cycle. 413

4. Special Magical Movement Cycle

a. Special Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Individual Obstacles


from the Head, Body, and Limbs: five movements

b. Special [magical movement set] that Clears Away Common Obstacles:


five movements (seven, including the subdivisions).

The first set is composed of five movements that clear away the obstacles of the

head, torso, arms, lower body (specifically the stomach) and legs, respectively.

The second set, instead, focuses on clearing away obstacles from the whole body.

4a. Special Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Individual Obstacles. 414
This set resembles the foundational set in its clearing away or purifying of

obstacles from the different parts of the body. I think of this set as the "special

foundational set," since both have five movements relating to different parts of

the body. The foundational set has movements purifying the head, legs, arms,

upper torso and lower torso, while this special set has movements that clear

away the obstacles of the head, the upper torso, the arms, the lower torso and the

413 Commentary 338.3 - 346.2, Quintessential Instructions 639.4 - 643.1.


151

legs (together with whole body). One general difference between them is that, in

the foundational set, the clearing is done through a massage (and internal

sweeping of the vital breath currents); while in the special set, the clearing of

obstacles is mostly internal and guided by the movement of that particular area

of the body.

i. Clearing Away [obstacles] from the Head: Rotating (ril) and Nodding (lcog) the
Head. 415
The first magical movement of this set (and twenty-eighth altogether)

starts with the gradual clearing of the body, beginning with the head. Sitting in

the cross-legged posture, one places both hands on top of the thighs, which helps

straighten the back along with the inner channels. Holding the breath in the

usual pervasive manner, one rotates the head seven times counterclockwise and

seven times clockwise, which one is advised to do so slowly. The movement

guides the vital breath currents in order to help clear away obstacles of the head

as one imagines the vital breath currents internally spiraling up and "waking

up" all the sense organs in the head. Still holding the breath, one continues with

a front-back movement of the head, which is also repeated seven times and

produces a similar awakening sensation. This is a stronger internal clearing than

the Purification of the Head in the foundational set. The conclusion is the usual

414Commentary 338.4 - 340.3, Quintessential Instructions 639.4 - 640.4. Instead of "individual,"


Quintessential Instructions calls this set "the gradual clearing of obstacles" (gags sel rim pa).
415 Ibid, 338.4 - 5.
152

visualization together with the shaking of the limbs and the exhalation with ha

and phat.

ii. Swinging (ling) the Binding Chains (sgrog chings) of the Torso. 416

With one's knees planted on the ground and the legs crossed in the back

at the level of the ankles, one places most of one's weight forward. One's arms

embrace and cross around the straightened torso, holding the opposite

shoulders. One twists this "chained" torso, rotating it seven times to the right

and seven to the left. The constrained torso feels liberated internally; the

movement helps the opening and clearing of the obstacles in the torso.

This magical movement is very different than its predecessor in the

foundational set, where the purification was done by pounding one's chest and

then exhaling with three has and a phat as a way of releasing or brushing away

external, internal and secret obstacles. In other words, through the swinging of

one's "chained" upper torso, this movement of the special set clears away and

liberates the obstacles of the torso. The conclusion here is as usual, sounding one

ha and one phat.

416 Commentary 339.1- 2.


153

iii. Grasping [like] the Raven's Claws, [clearing away the obstacles of] the

Arms.417

Sitting in the bodhisattva posture, one holds one's arms on each side with

hands clinched like claws (with the thumb pressing the other fingers) and fingers

facing outwards. Extending first the right arm, the palm and fingers extend out

to that side and return to the same position. Then one replicates the movement

with the left arm. Alternating between the right and left arms, one repeats the

movement seven times to each side. This movement is extremely similar to the

Purification of the Arms in the foundational set; in each extension and retrieving

of each arm, one imagines the clearing away of obstacles from that arm. The

only differences are the position of the hands and that the extending and

contracting are alternated in this movement instead of done sequentially (seven

to the right and then seven to the left) in the one in the foundational set. Again,

like in the root magical movement set that clears away obstacles, an animal is

mentioned as an example to imitate the position, in this case, of the hand. Animal

metaphors seem very useful for the practitioner to imagine how to follow the

pose. The conclusion of the movement is with the usual visualization, shaking

and exhalation.

417 Commentary 339.2 - 3. Commentary does not specify in the title here that this movement clears
away the obstacles of the arm, just mentions arm, but it is clear form the above context, plus it is
mentioned in this way in Quintessential Instructions (639.6).
154

iv. Adamantine Self-Rotation of the Stomach (phD ba).418

Although the text instructs to sit in the bodhisattva posture, for those who

can, the lotus position is preferable to keep the torso and channels straight.

Crossing the right and left arms at the elbows, one holds the ribcage with both

hands, embracing the stomach. Then, one rotates the waist and stomach419 seven

times counterclockwise and seven times clockwise. This adamantine rotation can

be said to release subtle obstacles from the navel energetic center, which is the

hub of the area. In this way, it shares some similarities with the Fire Vital Breath

Current movement among the channels-breaths practices of the Mother Tantra. 420

One concludes the same as all other magical movements.

v. Camel's Fighting Stance [that clears away the obstacles of the] Legs [and

whole body].421

The last magical movement of this set is mostly for the legs, but it actually

engages the whole body. Squatting down with legs bent almost flat on the

ground, one brings the forearms between the legs. 422 Grabbing the big toes or all

toes of both feet with both hands, one rolls backwards, planting the legs and

418 Commentary 339.3 - 5.


419 Quintessential Instructions (639.6 - 640.1) has it as both waist (rked pa) and stomach.
420 It is difficult to compare this movement to any of the foundational set. The closest one would
be Purifying From the Waist Down (i.e., waist and legs), which actually shares more similarities
with the next magical movement of this set than with the one in question.
421 Commentary 339.5 - 340.2. Quintessential Instructions does not mention the legs in the title of
this movement, probably meaning that it is to purify the whole body, which I believe it does too,
since the whole body is clearly engaged in its performance.
422 Quintessential Instructions (640.1 - 2) has some details in the description of this magical
movement that are absent in Commentary. Here it adds that the legs are contracted (bskum).
155

head to the ground. 423 Extend skywards the legs and arms like a brush stroke,

stirring and shaking up in the air, like if fighting. "Having done that,"

Quintessential Instructions states, "complete the turning" (bskor rdzogs),424 which

feels like Collecting the Four Stalks in the main branch set. In other words, the

opening and contracting of the body and limbs in these movements guides the

vital breath currents to spread and contract clearing away obstacles of the whole

body. The external movement reflects well the inner ma~~ala-dynamism. Like in

most magical movements, here too one repeats it seven times. One is instructed

to conclude as usual, and Commentary reiterates, that shaking the four limbs and

the vocalization of ha and phat and so forth should be applied to all magical

movements.

This movement also resembles Purifying the Lower Body in the

foundational set. It can also be said to be a combination of that movement

together with the Purification of the Legs in that same foundational set.

However, Camel's Fighting Stance has the added rotation back and forth, which

makes it a more thorough cleansing movement of the whole body.

Benefits. 425

As for the benefits of these, [in accordance with] the intent of


Orgom Kundul ('Or sgom kun 'dul, "Meditator of Or [clan/family]),

423 Quintessential Instructions (640.2) mentions the nape planted on the ground, while in
Commentary (340.1) it is legs and head being planted.
424 Quintessential Instructions, 640.2. Although not explicit in Commentary, it is assumed that one
returns to the beginning posture, like in all movements.
425 Ibid, 340.2 - 3.
156

tamer of all [obstructions]", all the cooperative conditions of


temperature (heat and cold), wind, bile, and demons become clear
as well as the diseases of each of the branches [Le. limbs/parts of
the body] become clear.

For the first time we find a direct mention of the demonic forces being cleared

away among the benefits; they were not mentioned among the benefits of the

root or branch cycles. In other words, the movements of this special set clear

away physical illnesses as well as those provoked by the hindering spirits.

In Quintessential Instructions, this section of benefits is more extensive.

Besides the above, it also reads:

In this way, all kinds and sorts of illnesses are cleared by the upper and
lower special [magical movements].426 In terms of the concluding actions,
the key points of the vital breath currents: in each session of breathing
purify with each magical movement in accordance with the oral wisdom
[received from your teacher]. Accordingly, in all [magical movements]
respectively, shake clearing the vital breath vocalizing ha and phat. This
reminding note of the special [magical movement set] that clears away
obstacles [comes] from applied (lit. 'take in hand', lag len) red instructions
from oral wisdom.427

As mentioned in chapter 2, red instructions are considered very special heart

advice. Even so, Shardza omits this instruction in the same way he omitted the

instruction regarding the ten gazes in the benefit section of the root of the root

426 Interestingly, Experiential Transmission (261.14) omits the word bye brag in this line that could
be then referring to the upper and lower parts of the body. In any case, I do think that the
meaning is similar to the upper and lower special magical movements or those which engage the
upper and lower parts of the body.
427 Quintessential Instructions 640.3 - 4.
157

magical movement set. 428 This leaves me with the qualm of why did Shardza not

include this kind of advice? Did he not consider them important? Perhaps by

leaving them as oral wisdom, the text allows each lama to decide in which

circumstances it is appropriate to include those special instructions. Once again,

this highlights the relevance of the oral instructions, even when written texts of

those teachings exist. Reiterating Gray's earlier statement: "These scriptures

cannot be adequately understood if this orality and the social world that gave

rise to it is not taken into account."429

4b. Special Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Common Obstac1es. 430
The second set of the special magical movement cycle is the last set of this

text. It contains five magical movements; however, since one of them is

subdivided in three parts, it actually becomes seven magical movements. In

contrast to its preceding set, all these movements clear away obstacles from the

whole body (or more accurately, the whole mind-energy-body system).

The magical movements that clear away the common obstacles are:
Stirring the Depths of the Ocean, Freeing (bkrol) the Nine Knots
(rgya mdud); Binding and Freeing the Channels; Chinese Woman
Weaving Silk (dar thag) First, Second, and Third [parts]; and the
Bouncing Jewel (nor bu 'phar len).431

428 Experiential Transmission (261.12 - 18) also includes it, as for the most part it is same as
Quintessential Instructions.
429 See chapter 1. David B. Gray, "Orality, Textuality, and Tantric Buddhist Origins: A
Comparative Analysis," p. 2.
430 Commentary 340.3 - 346.2, Quintessential Instructions 640.5 - 643.1.
431 Commentary 340.3 - 4.
158

i. Stirring the Depths of the Ocean.432

For the first of this set (and thirty-third altogether), one sits in the

bodhisattva posture and holds both legs under the calves with both hands. 433

Raising the whole body with strength gathered internally, one rotates seven

times counter-clockwise and seven times clockwise.

This movement bears the name of the visualization that the yogin or

practitioner is maintaining in every magical movement. In other words, the

stirring the depths of the ocean, refers to the ocean of cyclic existence. Thus, this

movement emphasizes the stirring and then clearing of one's own obstacles

together with those of all sentient beings. One should conclude as usual, with the

sense of relief and joy of clearing away obstacles of oneself and of others.

ii. Freeing the Nine KnotS. 434

The nine knots that are freed or liberated refer to the nine parts of the

movement. Sitting with the soles of the feet on the ground and legs half-extended

(knees bent), one taps with both palms alternating, seven times in each of the six

places mentioned: the crown of the head, the forehead, the nape, the top of the

right and left shoulders, the right and left hip bone, and above the right and left

432 Commentary 340.5 - 341.2.


433 Quintessential Instructions (640.5) is clearer on this point stating, "with the right and left hand
hold both legs" (rkang ngar gnyis lag pa g.yas g.yon bzung la). Recently, Ponlob demonstrated this
movement holding the legs from inside (Houston, TX, April 2005). Until then, other lamas had
demonstrated it holding the calves with the hands outside.
159

knees. One follows by tapping the ground with feet (emphasis is on the heels),

and then, planting the palms of both hands on the ground like a handstand, one

elevates three times the lower part of the body to the sky. I was also instructed to

kick like a horse at this point and then bring the legs down with the soles of the

feet to the ground. 435 Finally, still holding the breath, one stands up and jumps

upwards, trying to get into the lotus posture and coming to the ground in that

pose, repeating it three times. That is called the great descent "from earth to

stars.// 436 Thus, the six taps with the hands, the tapping with the feet, the

standing on the hands, and the great descents make nine parts of this magical

movement, freeing all the areas involved. One concludes by standing with the

usual visualization, shaking and exhalation. This is quite a strenuous movement,

probably the hardest of all 39, both in terms of holding the air for such a long

time and the challenge of the physical posture.

iii. Training/Binding ('dul) and Freeing (bkrol) the Channels. 437

This magical movement is the only in the text that has its own distinct

visualization, besides the general one of clearing the obstacles of oneself and all

434 Commentary, 341.2 - 5.


435 Although the texts do not mention the kicking skywards, this comes from demonstration
during instructions in Tritan Norbutse (1993) and US (Khenpo Nyima Wangyal, New Mexico,
1996). Maybe it is a way to keep the balance as one's legs are up in the air.
436 Commentary (341.4 - 5) has an annotation (mchan): "in the air (bar snang "from earth to stars")
assume the bodhisattva cross-legged posture and sit ('dug pa) three [times]." (See translation in
appendix III.)
437 Commentary, 342.1 - 343.1.
160

sentient beings. Standing with legs together and holding the hands at the waist,

one clearly visualizes the three channels and the six energetic centers or wheels:

• At the principal wheel of the crown an A,

• At the throat an Om,

• At the heart a Hung,

• At the wheel of the soles of the feet a Yam,

• At the secret wheel a Ram, and

• At the navel a Kham.

Through the visualization and holding of the breath, one heats up the channels

and the whole body-energy-mind system with the fire of the inner heat. The

three main syllables A, Om, and Hung, at crown, throat and heart centers, melt

into light, transforming into three essential spheres of white, red and azure

colors, respectively. Interestingly, both Quintessential Instructions and Experiential

Transmission instruct at this point to "meditate according to the oral instructions"

from one's teacher.438 In that vein, Shardza's Commentary describes that the three

essential spheres dissolve in the Yam at each of the soles of the feet. That activates

both Yam, spreading the vital breath currents up through the legs and into the

secret wheel, blazing there the fire from the Ram. Raising to the Kham at the navel

wheel, the fire melts Kham into nectar, which then falls down like raindrops.439

The fire is thusly enhanced by the nectar, and through the power of one's
161

visualization, it raises as vital breath currents, fire and golden light that clear

away all the karmic latencies, predispositions and obstacles of the three times

(past, present, and future) and become a pure burnt offering. 44o Therefore, our

body becomes an offering that burns away obstacles of oneself and others.

To enhance the offering and clearing away of obstacles further, keeping

the pervasive vital breath current and neutral holding, one jumps in one's place,

striking the buttocks with both heels at each of the seven jumps. The text

describes it like a gallop. Still holding the breath and the posture, one turns

around and gallops for seven more jumps. With each jump, the fire increases,

fueled by the vital breath current. They transform into a powerful light that

clears away obstacles as it spreads, clearing and burning external, internal and

secret obstacles. Thus, the spreading follows the kU1J~alini model upward,

externally helped by the heels kicks and also the ma1J~ala-dynamics model, as the

light and vital breath currents pervade like sun rays throughout the whole body.

These three magical movements were spoken by Yangton Chenpo


(Yang stan chen po, "Great Teacher of Yang") to his son Bum Je 'Od
('Bum rJe 'Qd "Luminous Lord of the Scriptures").441

438 Quintessential Instructions, 641.3 and Experiential Transmission, 262.16.


439 In fact, babs here is like the falling of rain (char babs).
440 Past, present and future can refer to different lifetimes or times within one's present lifetime.
Burnt offering is a class of external offering used to purify obstacles of oneself and others.
441 Commentary, 343.1 - 2. Yang is an abbreviation for Ya ngal, a very important Dzogchen lineage
of masters that now continues in Dolpo (see S. Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. 29).
162

Benefits (of the first three magical movements of this set).442


[One is] liberated from all kinds of disease, as well as from all
cooperative conditions [due to imbalance of] the elements, and all
external and internal obstacles. All flaws of the channels, vital-
breath, and essential spheres are cleared away; [and] the five vital
breaths penetrate the 5 points. [One] achieves the self/natural
power of speed-walking, of the ignition of the warmth of bliss and
of [control] over the four elements. The erratic collection of
thoughts purify into the natural abode and the non-conceptual
experiences of bliss and clarity dawns.

Although Commentary does not attribute these benefits explicitly to Quintessential

Instructions, as in previous sets, they clearly come from it. 443 All kinds of disease

probably mean the collection of four diseases (wind, bile, phlegm, and the

combination of all three) as we have seen earlier. If we think of all kinds of

disease from the Tibetan medical perspective, there would be three additional

combinations: wind-bile, bile-phlegm, and wind-phlegm, making a total of

seven. These could be the causes (rgyu), which, together with the cooperative

conditions (rkyen) due to the elements not being in balance, can bring

disharmony or unbalance to one's mind-energy-body system. Therefore, these

three magical movements can liberate the practitioner from such humor

imbalance, as well as from external, internal (and secret) obstacles.

In other words, through the performance of these magical movements,

any flaw in the energetic body constituted by channels, vital breath currents and

essential spheres is cleared away or dispelled by the inner ma~~ala-dynamic

442 Commentary, 343.2 - 4.


163

power, bringing an overall balance. 444 Quintessential Instructions and Experiential

Transmission have a list of such obstacles, including channels dissipating (yar ba

or yer ba) and the vital breath having drowsiness or laxity (bying ba or bying pa),

quarreling (,khrug pa), crippled (zha ba) and so forth.445 The vital breath currents

then penetrate and open the five energetic centers.446 As they open, they allow

the flow of the vital breath currents, positively affecting the mind. Consequently,

the powers mentioned are the signs of the result. The most important of them,

from the Bon and Buddhist perspective, is the dissolution of thoughts, which

provides the ability to abide in one's natural mind in experiences of bliss and

clarity.

The five vital breaths that flow through the wheels are the same ones as in

Tibetan medicine, mentioned in the introduction, and correspond to the five

elements. The Mother Tantra, a text from which Shardza quotes extensively in this

aspect, particularly in Self-Dawning, clearly renders the correspondences between

the five vital breath currents, the five channels-breaths movements and the five

elements, which we can also see in English in Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's

443 Quintessential Instructions, 641.1 - 3.


444 Actually Quintessential Instructions (641.4) uses sol, "to dispel or arrest."
445 Quintessential Instructions, 641.4 - 5, Experiential Transmission, 262.19 - 263.2. The whole list is
not identical, but many are shared, and when there are two different spellings, the first spelling
corresponds to Quintessential Instructions and the second to Experiential Transmission. Shardza
omits them in Commentary,
446 When they are mentioned as five, they refer to those in abdomen, torso and head. The ones in
the feet are excluded from the enumeration.
164

Healing with Form, Energy, and Light (also see chart in appendix II).447 Following

that source: 448 the upward moving vital breath is related to the earth element and

flows through the throat and crown wheels; the life-force vital breath is related to

the space element and flows through the heart wheel; the fire vital breath is

related to the fire element and flows through the navel wheel; the pervasive vital

breath is usually related to the whole central channel (although sometimes also

related to the wheel of the union of the channels), and the downward clearing

vital breath is related to the water element and flows through the secret wheel.

These correlations re-asseverate that these magical movements, are not only part

of a spiritual endeavor, but are also methods of healing, especially linked with

the Tibetan medical system.

iv. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk.

The next three magical movements of this set are called Chinese Woman

Weaving Silk, Parts 1, 2, & 3, respectively. And although each is a distinct

magical movement, they are related. In fact, Quintessential Instructions (and

Experiential Transmission following it) considers them as three stages of one

447 Mother Tantra, Byung ba'i thig Ie, pp. 591-619, and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Healing with
Form, Energy, and Light, especially pp. 76 - 110. Also, Quintessential Instructions and Experiential
Transmission mention a relation of the five vital breath currents to the five elements, but without
stating its correspondences. The relation of those two modes of practice and discourse, i.e.,
Tibetan medicine and Tibetan tantric practices, specifically channels-breaths and magical
movement, is a topic that I would like to continue exploring in the future. I believe that these
interrelations can be the foundation for that exploration, especially since the five elements are
also crucial in the understanding of Tibetan medicine.
448 I make this caveat since other systems may have different correlations, as seen, for example, in
Dr. Yeshi Dhonden's comment included in the introduction of this dissertation.
165

movement (rim pa gsum).449 It is worth noting that this is the first movement with

a name involving a person. Up to now we had names to imitate animal

behaviors, especially in the root magical movement set that clears obstacles

away, and nature. The weaving silk, refers to the movement of the loom. It is

Chinese because Tibetans obtained their silk from China. And I assume that

women did the weaving of silk more than men did. Thus, the name.

iV,a. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk, Part 1. 450

One becomes both the loom and the weaver in this posture. The knee that

is up, together with the hand holding that leg by its ankle, creates the loom. The

other hand moves the respective leg in seven circular weavings forward and

seven backward. One starts with the right side being the loom, while the left

does the weaving motion. Commentary states, "it should be understood that the

right and the left should be switched." Therefore, one performs the same

movements, now rotating the right leg. Quintessential Instructions concludes this

magical movement with a specific instruction to extend by straightening the legs

and the arms and to exhale clearing all stale air.451 However, this refers to the

usual conclusion. 452

449 Quintessential Instructions 641.6, Experiential Transmission, 262.10.


450 Commentary, 343.4 - 344. I.
451 Quintessential Instructions 642.1.
452 I wondered why it was mentioned specifically in this magical movement. Both Yongdzin
Tenzin Namdak and Ponlob Thinley Nyima said that it just refers to the usual conclusion, and
none gave a specific reason why Quintessential Instructions had inserted it at that point in the text
166

iv.b. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk, Part 2.453

Lying down now on the right side, like the Buddha entering in

paranirvana, one closes the right nostril with the forefinger of the right hand, and

brings the thumb to carefully bind the carotid artery.454 With the left hand, one

grabs the left foot and performs seven circular weaving motions outward and

seven inward. Interestingly, in the first part (Le., last movement), the turning was

first inwards and then outwards. Perhaps this bring some balance, or, most

probably, just a lack of consistency in the authors or scribes. Quintessential

Instructions (642.2) only mentions inwards rotation (and probably assumes the

outward), and Experiential Transmission (263. 17-18) has both, with inwards first

and then outwards. In any case, one repeats the rotation also lying down on the

left side, then, standing up, performs the usual concluding shaking, visualization

and exhalation. This second part of the Chinese Woman Weaving Silk is said to

be an important secondary practice for enhancing the direct leap vision

practice. 455

(Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, Charlottesville, VA, October, 2005, Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston,
TX, April 2005).
453 Commentary, 344.1- 3.
454 The binding of the carotid needs to be done with caution, since too much pressure might
cause fainting and even death. It promotes the direct leap visions, but it could be dangerous if
done for a long time (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston, TX, April 2005).
455 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, oral teachings, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2000.
167

iv.c. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk, Part 3. 456

Sitting in a crouching posture with the back of the buttocks on the ground,

one balances with the arms slightly lifted and holding the legs by the big toes. (I

have also seen it being grabbed by the ankles.) Alternating the legs, one brings

each foot inward with the heels touching the inside of the hipbone, almost

touching the secret energetic center. One repeats it seven times with each heel.

Quintessential Instructions and Experiential Transmission describe this process as

"the legs stretch, bend, and crosS.// 457 The crossing is possibly like the alternating

(re mo) in Commentary, since if the legs actually crossed it would be very difficult

to do the striking with the heels toward the inner part of the hip bone. This last

part is the simplest of the three. 458 The conclusion is with the usual shaking,

exhalation and visualization. 459 Experiential Transmission also states, "accompany

the utterance vocalizations and stale air to all [magical movements].//460 Again,

this is a way for Drugyalwa to remind that this instruction is the last magical

movement of his text, since, as we will see below, he slightly altered the order of

them.

456 Commentary, 344.3 - 5.


457 Brkyang bskum bsnol mar bya Quintessential Instructions (642,3) and Experiential Transmission
(264.2). In the latter it is (mis) spelled rkyang skum bsnol ma bya. Experiential Transmission also says
skor log theb, which can mean "turning the legs."
458 To maintain the same character as its predecessors, the light pounding in of the legs might be
done with a slight rotation- I will ask Ponlob Thinley Nyima, as once he seemed to be indicating
it in that way.
459 This phrase, bsig sprug rlung ro sgra skad kun dang mthun, is absent in Quintessential Instructions,
but it is partly there in Experiential Transmission, which leads me to believe that Shardza took it
from the latter.
168

Benefits (of the three parts of the Chinese Woman Weaving Silk).461
The first [part of the Chinese Woman Weaving Silk magical
movement] opens the door of the left channel, and insight
increases; the female [left] vital-breath penetrates the vital points
and discursive thoughts are pacified. 462

The second [part] closes the door of the right channel and cuts off
the continuity of the path of afflictions. [One] obtains natural power
over the harsh vital breath and purifies torpor and dullness.

The third [part] opens the door of the central channel and masters
the neutral vital breath. [One] obtains natural power over
appearances and mind and non-conceptual primordial wisdom
dawns.

The benefits of the Chinese Woman Weaving Silk are well articulated in terms of

its three parts. The first movement opens the left or wisdom channel, the second

closes the right or affliction channel, and the third one opens the central channel.

So, the first one opens the wisdom channel, bringing in the female vital breath

current and pacifying discursive thoughts. Then, in the second, by closing the

affliction channel and conquering the harsh vital breath current, torpor and

dullness are liberated. And finally, by mastering the neutral breath current in the

central channel, one is not distracted by appearances and mental "tricks." Thus,

non-conceptual primordial wisdom dawns.

460 Experiential Transmission, 264.3.


461 Commentary, 345.1- 3.
462 Mo rlung is another way of saying 'jam rlung, or soft breath (Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak,
Charlottesville, VA, October, 2005, Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, TX, April 2005).
Quintessential Instructions (642.3-4) has it as distilled or gathered vital-breath (bsdu rlung) and
Experiential Transmission (264.4) as harsh vital-breath (rtsub rlung).
169

The opening of the left channel in the first part of this magical movement

seems to work with the vital breath slightly different, according to the three texts.

While Commentary mentions the female vital breath as penetrating the vital

points, or, as we mentioned earlier, making the energetic system run smoother,

Quintessential Instructions mentions it as a distilled (bsdu) vital breath current that

penetrates the essential points.463 In Experiential Transmission, it is the harsh

(rtsub) vital breath current that penetrates the essential points. 464

For the second part, all three texts are in agreement regarding the benefits:

closing the door of the right channel and thus cutting off the continuity of the

path of afflictions. All three also agree that one obtains natural power over the

rough vital breath current, purifying torpor and dullness. 465 Experiential

Transmission mentions the rough vital breath in both the first and second parts

within the benefits. I think that is an oversight or a typo. Following the other

texts, it would seem more sensible to have the first one be the soft vital breath

463 Quintessential Instructions (642.4).


464 Experiential Transmission (264.4). It also brings a controversy that has been in place for a long
time, both among scholars and practitioners, concerning the relationship of the left and right
channels with the wisdom and the afflicted aspects. Relating the left channel to wisdom or
insight and the right to the afflictions seems the predominant position and that of this text. Some
texts cite that for women the opposite is true. Unfortunately, I do not propose any solutions here
but wanted to point out that this controversy still exists, and here I will follow these texts'
position. I would also like to add that the mention of the female vital breath, is interesting in
itself, even if not directly related to the reversing the channels for men and women.
465 Quintessential Instructions (642.4) and Commentary (345.2) use the word sangs, while Experiential
Transmission has sel (264.6). Shardza decides here to adhere with Quintessential Instructions. As in
other occasions, the words do not really change in meaning, but one should ask why one author,
if quoting another text, decides to change the wording, even if the meaning is maintained.
170

current, the second one the harsh vital breath current and the third one the

neutral vital breath current.

The third part, according to Commentary, and claiming to be a quotation

(from Quintessential Instructions would be the assumed source although it is not

mentioned), reads slightly different from its source. Quintessential Instructions

and Experiential Transmission read "the two vital breaths pierce the essential

points and [one] obtains natural power over the external and internal."466 I

believe that here the external and internal refers to obstacles, although it could

also be referring to the elements, and actually those two could be correlated too.

In addition, none of these earlier texts mention the opening of the central channel

here. However, Quintessential Instructions concludes this part by stating: "the

general flows (rgyug pa) are even (cha snyoms)."467 Experiential Transmission refers

to all three "gradual parts of Chinese woman weaving silk magical movement,"

stating that they "teach the general flows."468 The central channel is known for

uniting, and in doing so, making the flow of the vital breath even. This is what

White describes as the hydraulic model, as we saw in chapter 2.

We can also understand the benefits of the three together by thinking that

all three parts of the Chinese woman weaving silk teach the practitioner the flow

466 Quintessential Instructions(642.4-5) and Experiential Transmission (264.6-8). Interestingly, here


both use bsnun rather than its most common usage of tshud as seen before even in these texts,
translated as "pierce" or "penetrate."
467 642.5
468 254.7-8.
171

of the vital breath currents. In that way, one is able to balance them and

especially master the neutral breath, the most important for performing the

magical movement. At the same time, one can control one's mind and have

power over the relation to the appearances it perceives.

v. Bouncing Iewel. 469

Sitting in the bodhisattva posture, one brings the arms parallel in front of

oneself and forms the "jewel" by clasping the hands by interlacing the fingers

and leaving the two forefingers pointing forward, almost like a gun, and the left

thumb pressing the right one. Contracting the arms, one brings that jewel toward

oneself hitting all areas of the chest with the jewel, while simultaneously

vocalizing phat with each hit. After hitting as many times as possible, which is

accompanied with deep inner stirring, one shakes and exhales as usual. As

expected, the text reads: "the stir and shake with ha phat, and so forth, extends to

all of the magical movements."470

This is the thirty-ninth magical movement and the last one in this text.

Quintessential Instructions and Experiential Transmission have a longer title for it,

or more like a subtitle, adding, "clearing the obstacles of the treasure of the

469 Commentary, 345.3 - 346.1.


470 Judging by the odd way it is written, it seems that it might have been dictated, and as for
quotes from Quintessential Instructions, probably done by memory and not necessarily with the
Quintessential Instructions text in front.
172

torso."471 The word stod 'tshang, indicating the pressure on the chest or torso, can

be also rendered more poetically as "inspiring the heart." In fact, in oral

instructions, it is mentioned that this movement is beneficial for the heart's

health. 472

Quintessential Instructions and Experiential Transmission describe this

magical movement in a very similar way, although they use slightly different

words. 473 Shardza's wording, perhaps, adapted to a 19th century audience. 474

Also, both these texts mention the benefit of this magical movement, which is

oddly left out in Commentary. Ponlob Thinley Nyima explains that in this

movement the pressure brought by the breath in the torso is removed, like a

"pressure cooker" with each phat vocalization and thumping, concluding with

the total relief of the area. In this way, this movement is said to be particularly

beneficial for heart problems. 475

471 Quintessential Instructions (642.5) and Experiential Transmission (263.4-5). The latter has this
magical movement before the three-tiered Chinese Woman weaving silk magical movement,
without giving any explanation.
472 I heard this almost every time I received oral instructions, beginning with the first time in
Tritan Norbutse in 1993.
473 Quintessential Instructions 642.6, and Experiential Transmission 263.8.
474 There are slight, yet significant changes at the end of the description. One is that when
pointing to the special or particular part, both these texts have the more familiar term dmigs
rather than gdan in Commentary, and in explaining it they say to throw or entrust your focus and
add that one should understand this and the breathing from applied oral instructions or hands-
on oral instructions (lag len zhal). Interestingly though, even among these two texts there are
slight differences in words, which I take to be typos, such as zhar in Experiential Transmission
instead of the correct zhal in Quintessential Instructions and thun in Quintessential Instructions
instead of the more probable thub in Experiential Transmission (Quintessential Instructions 642.6,
and Experiential Transmission 263.8).
475 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Houston April 2005.
173

Benefits (of the Bouncing Jewel).476


The benefits are: maintaining the heart vital breath current in the chest
treasure and liberating from the impure diseases. 477

It seems that the more one is able to maintain the vital breath current in the

central channel and the heart as its center, the more physical and mental diseases

are liberated. This would be something truly appealing to undertake as a

research study within a modern Western medical framework.

Interestingly too, a movement within the Chinese tradition called the

"Thymus Tap Technique" appears to be similar in terms of physical movement,

rhythmically tapping the chest area with both hands, and, more importantly,

having significant health benefits, including the heart. 478

476 Quintessential Instructions 642.6, Experiential Transmission 263.9.


477 Quintessential Instructions (642.6) and Experiential Transmission (263.9). The latter actually adds
bshug as the verb for the first part, which with that spelling means "singing or whistling," but if
spelled bzhug it could make more sense as maintaining the heart vital breath. (Another question
for the lamas.)
478 Daniel Reid, The Complete Book of Chinese Healing and Health (Shambhala, Boston, 1994) p.204-
205. He describes it in the following way:
In the Stand in the Horse stance, completely relaxed. Make a fist with the right or
left hand and raise it up to the middle of your chest. Start tapping the spot
midway between the nipples with a rhythm of one hard followed by two softer
taps: one, two, three, one, two, three, etc. Tap hard enough to vibrate the sternum
and create a deep drumming sound in the chest. Continue for three to five
minutes, breathing naturally and keeping your mind focused on the vibrations in
the chest. You may practice this in the morning as part of your warm-up, or just
before bedtime, or both. Practicing at night before going to sleep is particular
beneficial because the thymus gland becomes most active approximately ninety
minutes after you fall asleep. Since the thymus shrinks in adults during the late
teens or early twenties, it's a good idea to make this exercise a regular part of
your practice, in order to stimulate this gland's immune functions.
Benefits: Stimulates the thymus to produce T-cells, which are primary immune
factors. Draws blood and energy into the thymus thereby energizing and
nourishing it. With regular daily practice, this exercise will increase the size of
the thymus and improve its immune functions. The rhythmic vibrations not only
174

Although Commentary does not describe the benefits for this magical

movement, it does have a recommendation that seems to apply to all magical

movements. It is placed here as the concluding advice, probably by Shardza

himself, since it is absent in both Quintessential Instructions and Experiential

Transmission. Commentary reads: 479

Thus, afterward [i.e., having done these practices, one] effortlessly


self-liberates in an uncontrived manner beyond intellect, and
instantly one finds rest, entering into a meditative equipoise.

This clearly reinforces the purpose or view established in the homage of the

text-which is shared in all three texts. In other words, through the practice of

these magical movements, one can effortlessly (rtsol med) clear or liberate his/her

illnesses, afflictions, and subtle mental disturbances, and thus, abide uncontrived

(bya med) in the state of mind beyond intellect (blo med). In that way, one enters

and is able to rest (ngal gsO)480 in meditative equipoise in one's own natural state

of mind, which can be in the state of, and inspired by the Ever-Excellent One.

There is nothing else that I can add here, except to reiterate how vital this point is

in understanding the impact that performing these magical movements can have

on the experience of the practitioner.

stimulate the thymus, they also vibrate through the chest, gently massaging and
energizing the lungs, heart, bronchial tubes, and throat.
I am grateful to Scott Clearwater for referring me to this source.
479 Commentary, 346.1- 2.
480 I am reading nga/ gsa for ngar gsa.
175

Concluding Verses: Colophon to the Text(s)


As it is well known, colophons are often the most obscure part of a text,

and that seems to apply here toO.481 At the same time, as Tibetologist Jose Ignacio

Cabez6n asserts, "[t]he Tibetan colophon is a fascinating literary artifact, often

the only source of information we possess about the composition of a particular

text. "482

Quintessential Instructions' brief colophon to this text adjudicates these

magical movements to the authorship (mdzad) of Dampa Bum Je (Dam pa 'Bum

rje), the same master referred to earlier in this set as Bum Je 'Od or Bumjeo,

Yangton Chenpo's son. Although its description is somewhat unclear in terms of

referring to Bumje Od as author of only the last set or the whole text, my sense is

that it is doing both at the same time, when it reads: "The complete stages of root

special magical movements of the Great Completion of the Oral Transmission of

Zhang Zhung."483 In other words, on one hand Bumje Od is seen as the compiler

of the last set, which he learned in part from his father, but he is also the

481 An example of this was a lecture given by Jose Ignacio Cabez6n at University of Virginia on
colophons as a genre of Tibetan literature (Charlottesville, VA, 1995), which helped form the
basis of the article mentioned below.
482 Jose Ignacio Cabez6n, "Authorship and Literary Production in Classical Buddhist Tibet," in
Guy Newland, ed., Changing Minds: Contributions to the study of Buddhism and Tibet in honor of
Jeffrey Hopkins, Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2001, p. 238.
483 Quintessential Instructions, 643.1. The reference to the root special magical movements is a little
disconcerting, since that is not how this set was presented. On the other hand, if it is inclusive of
all the magical movements, it should have the branch magical movements mentioned between
the root and the special, as specified in Experiential Transmission (see below).
176

compiler of the whole text, as Reynolds' earlier reference confirms. Thus, it

concludes with the usual Sarva Mangalam. 484

Experiential Transmission also mentions that Dampa Bum Je ad expounded

(gsungs) on these magical movements. However, in this text, he appears after the

Chinese Woman Weaving Silk magical movements, since that is the last magical

movement in that text (see earlier footnote).

Commentary has the most extensive colophon of these three texts. It does

not mention Bumje ad at the end of this set. Possibly because of mentioning him

earlier-at the end of the first three magical movements of this set, that were

passed on to him by his father Yangton Chenpo-, it might seem redundant to

repeat him. However, it seems fair to attribute the rest of this set to Bum je ad,

and the earlier texts confirm this too.

Commentary's colophon reads: 485

Due to my disciple's request, [and] in through the unmistaken oral


instruction of the higher great masters, [I, Shardza] set forth as clear
[as possible] the application of the practices of the uncommon path,
of the ZZ Oral Transmission's magical movement. I admit the
contradictions [that I made here] to the skygoers and protectors.

In a smaller typeface, not sure if for a specific reason-sometimes that is found in

colophons-, or very possibly, for lack of space, the colophon continues: 486

484 Quintessential Instructions, 643.1.


485 Commentary, 346.2 - 3.
486 In fact the last line would have certainly not fitted, since all the rest of the pages have only five
lines. Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak corrected many lines of this last part and stated that there
177

Amplifying on this, a nephew of the dra [family], Namgyal Dragpa


(Rnam rgyal grags pa) and a student of the dra, Tsultrim Gyaltsen
(Tshul khrims gyal mtshan),487 both having met [and received] this
profound oral instructions, and with the great intention of
preventing the lineage to degenerate or stop, exhorted [me,
Shardza] to write these oral instructions down, and thus [I] the
renunciantl ascetic Shardza'i Tashi Gyaltsen (Shar rda'i Bya bral
Bkris Rgyal mtshan), composed it at the Blissful Beautiful
Yungdrung mountain hermitage (G.Yung [drungJ Lhun po'i De chen
ri khrod). May this practice become a condition whereby the yogis
might integrate in their continuum whatever extraordinary
experiences and realizations generating of the unity mind and vital
breath currents. 488 Sarva Mangalam.

In simple words, Ponlob Thinley Nyima recounts:

Shardza is praying for the benefit and increasing realization of all


practitioners into becoming great yogis. Noting that it is very sad
that this lineage might be lost, his students asked Shardza to please
write down what he had taught them, the oral instruction, in order
to benefit future practitioners. So, Shardza wrote it down in his
hermitage. He concludes by praying for benefit and increasing
realization, by being able to integrate mind and vital breath
currents. 489

Drugyalwa seems compelled to make the lineage clearer in Experiential

Transmission, and so he writes:

should be better blockprints of this text available (Charlottesville, VA, October, 2004). I will look
into finding a better copy.
487 This is probably is a typo, and it should be spelled rgyal mthsan. Dra here refers to the family
name, and it could also specifically refer to Ratrul Tenzin Wangyal (Ra sprul Bstan 'dzin dbang
rgyal), a famous teacher in that family, probably the uncle of Namgyal Dragpa and teacher of
Tsultrim Gyaltsen (Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, personal communication, Charlottesville, VA,
October 2004). Ponlob remarks that, also within that lineage, was Raton Kalzang Tenpa Gyaltsen
(Ra stan sKal bzang bstan pa rgyal mtshan), who was one of Shardza's famous students and who
wrote his biograph ..
488 Commentary, 346.3-6. I am not sure if "Blissful Beautiful" is part of the name of the hermitage
or qualifiers to it.
489 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Houston, TX, June 2005.
178

This successive root, branch, and special are all together490the


magical movements from the Great Completion of the Oral
Transmission of Zhang Zhung, [beginning with] Pongyal Tsenpo,
the six destroyer of delusion [Masters] of the upper tradition, the
five great accomplished [Masters] of the lower tradition to Yangton
[Yangton Chenpo] and his lineage,491 the successive lineage to me
[Drugyalwa Yungdrung]. 492

Drugyalwa seals the text, as is customary among Buddhist texts as well, with

"May it be virtuous" (dge'o).493 In mentioning the lineage masters of ZZ Oral

Transmission that relate to magical movement, from Pongyal Tsenpo down to

himself and including the different subgroups, such as those of Upper and

Lower traditions, Drugyalwa points out an interesting, and somewhat difficult

subject, that of the clear description of the lineage, in particular those masters

related to magical movement. 494

All three texts, the 11th century Quintessential Instructions, the 13th century

Drugyalwa's Experiential Transmission and the 19th century Commentary, by

Shardza, agree on the names of the ZZ Oral Transmission masters who composed

the magical movement cycles. Drugyalwa's colophon, however, brings the added

490 Although the word tum mong usually means "common," Ponlob Thinley Nyima says that here
it means "all of them" (oral communication, Houston, TX, April, 2005)
491 Literally "son and nephews." As this is actually a blood lineage, it makes sense in that way
too.
492 Experiential Transmission, 264.9 - 12.
493 This Tibetan phrase is placed interchangeably with the Sanskrit Sarva mangalam, which is
what we find in Quintessential Instructions.
494 Different sources mention the subgroups somewhat differently. Samten Karmay has
performed a wonderful task in bringing clarity to it in Little Luminous Boy. Unfortunately, the
book has a few typos or errors. I am in email conversations with him to help me straighten some
doubts about this matter. I am extremely grateful to him for his time and detailed answers.
179

information of the grouping of these masters within the ZZ Oral Transmission's

lineage. Since some of these lineage groups co-existed in the same historical

period, the chronology is sometimes difficult to follow. That is the case, for

example, with the Upper Tradition (in Dolpo, and Mt. Kailash area) and the

Lower Tradition (in Kham, and Amdo), and the Northern and Southern lineages

that follow after Yangton Chenpo. Therefore, in an effort to understand the

chronology of these masters, and in particular those related to magical

movement, I have compared Drugyalwa's description in the colophon with the

exhaustive Biographies of the Masters (Bla ma'i rnam 'thar) beautifully reported in

English in Samten Karmay's Little Luminous Boy, and with the succinct mention

in a prayer (gsol bdebs) to the masters of the ZZ Oral Transmission that Bonpos

recite daily (henceforth lineage prayer).495 The result of such comparison can be

briefly stated as follows:

o Pongyal Tsenpo is the first ZZ Oral Transmission master that is mention in


these magical movement texts. Although Drugyalwa mentions him by
himself (i.e., not within a "cluster" or sub-group of masters), he is
sometimes portrayed as the last among the" six fortunate masters (las can
dam pa)."496

495 More information on all these masters is found in chapter ka, the biographies (rnam 'thar) of
the lamas (ZZ Oral Transmission, pp. 1 - 130) and well reported in English in Samten Karmay's
Little Luminous Boy. The lineage prayer is in "Daily Bon Prayers," Rgyun khyer bon spyod phogs bsdus
dad ldan thar lam 'dzegs pa'i them skas shes bya ba bshugs so, Varanasi, India: Yungdrung Bon
Students Committee, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 2002, pp. 131 - 140). Since there
are some discrepancies, I hope that through communication with Dr. Karmay, we can find a
unified version. In appendix III, I will include the tsakli, or painted cards, representing these
masters (see figure 12).
496 "Daily Bon Prayers," p. 133.
180

o Togme Shigpo is the second ZZ Oral Transmission master mentioned in


these texts, and he is placed sixth among the "six destroyers of delusion
('khrul zhig)" masters of the Upper Tradition mentioned by Drugyalwa. 497

o Lhundrub Muthur and Orgom Kundul follow as third and fourth masters
within these magical movement texts, and are first and fifth, respectively,
among the "five greatly accomplished (grub chen)" masters from the
Lower Tradition. 498

For that reason, I assume that the other masters from the Lower Tradition,

namely Shengyal Lhatse (Gshen rgyallha rtse), Lhagom Karpo (Lha bsgom dkar po)

and Ngodrub Gyaltsen (dngos grub rgyal mtshan), also practiced magical

movement or at least were able to transmit it. And, in that way, it reaches to

Orgom Kundu1. 499

o Yangton Chenpo and his son Bumje Od are the last two masters
mentioned in relation to magical movement. Both are part of the
famous Dzogchen Yangton lineage, which then moved to what
now is the Northwest Nepali region of Dolpo. Interestingly, our
beloved Ponlob Thinley Nyima is from this region and belongs
to this Yangton or Yang ngal lineage too. Yangton Chenpo and
Bumje Od are the first and second among the "nine masters or
awareness holders (rig 'dzin) of the Word Lineage (bka
rgyud)."500

The lineage prayer has all these masters in the order that agrees with their

appearance in all three magical movement texts. As I speculate how the

transmission of the magical movements was handed down, it is interesting to

note that its masters follow the Lower or Experiential Transmission, as could be

497 Ibid, p. 134.


498 Ibid, p. 134.
499 Confirmed by Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication (phone), June 2005.
181

expected, with the only exception of Togme Shigpo, who is the last of the Word

Lineage or Upper Tradition.

Karmay says:

[u]p to Ponchen Tsenpo [alias Pongyal Tsenpo], the tradition of


transmitting the teaching to only one disciple (chig brgyud) was
strictly observed according to the tradition, but this master taught
two disciples. 50l

In fact, he taught what was known as the "Transmission of the Experience"

(Nyams brgyud) to Lhundrub Muthur, mentioned earlier, and the "Transmission

of the Word" (bKa' brgyud) to Sherab Loden (Shes rab blo ldan). The former was an

oral transmission, while the latter was written, "which is what Gyerpung

[Nangzher Lopo (Snang bzher lod po)] is thought to have received from Tapi

Hritsa,"502 around the 8th century CEo Furthermore, Ponchen Tsenpo is also said

to have put into writing the magical movements from ZZ Oral Transmission (or at

least a group of them) that were only transmitted orally until then. 503

So, Ponchen Tsenpo is Lhundrub Muthur's teacher from whom the

magical movement teachings reach to Orgom Kundul, who is in the same group

but with four teachers between them. It is somewhat unclear how Togme Shigpo

received them, but both of them, Togme Shigpo and Orgom Kundul, passed the

Word Transmission and the Experiential Transmission, respectively, to Yangton

500 "Daily Bon Prayers," p. 135.


501 Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. xvii.
502 Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. xvii.
182

Chenpo. Thus, both lineages join in Yangton Chenpo, and interestingly, he is said

to have had visions or visionary communication with Ponchen Tsenpo, the first

of the masters related to magical movement,504 It is clear from the texts

themselves, as stated earlier, that Yangton Chenpo passes his teachings-partly

also via his wife, Nyanmo Tashi Jochan (Gnyan mo bkra shis fo lcan)-to his son,

Bumjeo. The latter, I assume, is the compiler of Quintessential Instructions.

Karmay adds that Yangton Chenpo and his teacher (or with the authorization of

his teacher), Orgom Kundul, "wrote down the Experiential Transmission

(NyG),I/505 and from him it was divided in the Northern and Southern lineages,

out of which the latter, that of his son Bumjeo, became better known. 506

Drugyalwa, in fact, also belongs to that Southern lineage and is the one who, a

couple of centuries later, includes these magical movements in his famous

Gyalwa's Experiential Transmission practice manual. Drugyalwa also includes a

different magical movement cycle in his compilation of the Instructions of the A in

Fifteen Points (A khrid bco Inga).507 Reynolds says that it was not actually Yangton

503 John Myrdhin Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung, Kathmandu, Nepal: Vajra
Publications, 2005, p. 137.
504 Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. xix, and p. 29.
505 Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. xix.
506 Samten Karmay, The Little Luminous Boy, p. xix.
507 The A Khrid Collection, New Delhi, India, 1967. A khrid or the tradition of "Instructions on the
A" began in the 11th century by Gondzod Ritro Chenpo (Dgongs mdzod Ri khrod chen po) as an
eighty period system (A khrid mtshams brgyad cu pa). Then it was condensed into thirty periods in
the 12th century by fA zha blo gros rgyaZ mtshan, and finally reduced to fifteen periods by
Drugyalwa. Of this present form there is an English translation of the parts one and two (of three
parts), which do not include magical movements (see Bru-sgom rGyal-ba g.yung-drung, The
Stages of A-khrid Meditation: Dzogchen Practice of the Bon Tradition, translated by Per Kvaerne and
183

Chenpo who wrote the Experiential Transmission, but that he and his teacher,

Orgom Kundul, authorized Bumjeo to do so. Bumjeo, then, "created a grand

compendiuml/ of the ZZ Oral Transmission, from the teachings he received from

his father and master, Yangton Chenpo, and their master, Orgom Kundul. Thus,

according to Reynolds, this is how "the corpus of texts belonging to the Zhang

Zhung Nyan Gyu largely came into their present form,I/50B and included in it the

magical movement cycles that are the core of this dissertation.

Thupten K. Rikey, Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1996). I plan to
work with the magical movement chapter in the A khrid meditation system (The A Khrid
Collection, pp. 195-198), which contains fifteen magical movements and also sounds. I had the
good fortune to learn these with the Menri Abbot Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima and Ponlob Thinley
Nyima during my stay in Menri Monastery, from January to March 2002. Within that system,
there is also another magical movement text, Rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar la bogs 'don
'khrul 'khor sgyu ma'i rol mo bzhugs, that can be found in Shardza's Self-Dawning. This set is
comprised of forty magical movements that are divided into different sets by area of the body
and type of breathing to be used. I will briefly mention it in the next chapter and plan to expand
on it in the future.
508 This and previous quote from John M. Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung, p. 138.
184

Chapter 4: Moving into the Twentieth Century

Magical movement reached a pinnacle in 13th-century Tibet and

especially among Bonpos with Drugyalwa's works, which were mentioned in the

previous chapter. 509 This is probably the result of the 11th-and 12th-century

Tibetan Renaissance, which, as Germano states, is the period when the body

resurges as a center of attention for practice, such as in the yogini and other

Indian and Tibetan tantras. 510 It seems that, at this time, there was a need for

more body-oriented meditative practices. In fact, according to David Gray, they

"represent a cutting-edge of Asian spiritual practice, which beginning circa the

8th century, was truly a pan-Asian movement."511 This shift is not only evident

in magical movement and channels-breaths practices, but also with the body-

centered yogini tantras and sexual yogic practices; this also affects Indian yoga.

As we have seen in chapter 2, the asanas in Patafi.jali were limited to the lotus

posture and its variations, and many centuries later, around the 9th and 10th

centuries, Gorakhnath and his followers brought different asanas and began the

now more well known form: hatha yoga.

509 In his main two instruction manuals, Experiential Transmission and Instructions of the A in
Fifteen Points, he includes their corresponding cycles of magical movement. This appears to be a
statement by Drugyalwa supporting the importance of magical movement in meditative training.
510 David Germano, electronic communication, April 2005.
511 David Gray, personal communication, May 2005.
185

As seen in chapter 2, the 9th-and 10th-century commentaries on the

Cakrasamvara Tantra might be the first occurrences of "yantra" as a yogic posture

(besides also being a machine, and a geometrical diagram).512 These were just

mentions without much description. Then, in the 11th and 12th centuries, body-

centered tantric and yogic systems explosively grew all over Tibet as part of the

Tibetan Renaissance. The famed Naropa is the prime example. Consequently, it

makes sense that magical movement would gain importance at that time and

extend into the 13th century, as we see with Drugyalwa, and even into the 14th

century, with Tsongkhapa and his Commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa (see

appendix I).

Beyond that, however, I have not been able to find new texts or

commentaries on magical movement until the 19th-20th century. Especially in

the Bon tradition, there seem to be no other magical movement texts or

commentaries after Drugyalwa's time until it is "revived" by Shardza Tashi

Gyaltsen. Thus, along with his impulse, we move into twentieth-century magical

movement.

512 David Gray, electronic communication, Houston, TX, June 2005. Also see his The Discourse of
Sri Heruka: A Study and Annotated Translation of the Cakrasamvara Tantra. American Institute of
Buddhist Studies/Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2006.
186

I. Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen and Magical Movement

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (1859-1934) emerged from a middle-class


Bonpo family in Kham [East Tibet] to become one of the most
widely recognized Bonpo lamas of recent times. 513

His vision and work as an organizer of the Bon tradition has gained him a very

special place in the tradition. In addition, in 1934 he is believed to have achieved

the rainbow body, considered the sign of highest spiritual achievement within

Dzogchen schools of both Bon and Nyingma traditions. 514 Magical movement is

only one among the many practices about which he wrote. His five Treasures

(mdzod) include teachings of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen, and so, " if one studies

his Treasures one learns about all three paths to enlightenment.//515 Yet, to some

Bonpos, he is controversial, in that he worked not only with Yungdrung Bon

texts, but also with New Bon and Nyingma texts and masters. Nonetheless, the

current Head of the Yungdrung Bon tradition, the Menri Abbot Lungtok Tenpa'i

Nyima, asserts: "Shardza did not mix; when he worked on Yundgrung Bon texts

513 William Gorvine, "Reflections on the Life and Legacy of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen," talk at
Ligmincha Institute Summer Retreat, Nelson County, VA, July 2003. This is also included in
Gorvine's forthcoming dissertation (University of Virginia), which focuses on Shardza's life and
works.
514 As mentioned in chapter 2, see" An Eyewitness Account of a Rainbow Body," in Shardza
Tashi Gyaltsen, Heartdrops of Dharmakaya, pp. 135-137. Also, Gorvine's forthcoming dissertation,
which includes his translation of Shardza's medium-length biography, explains Shardza's
"Miraculous Passing" in more detail, from a believer's perspective-one of Shardza's disciples.
515 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal conversation (phone), June 29, 2005.
187

he remained faithful to Yungdrung Bon, and when he worked on New Bon he

worked within the New Bon system."516

Yongdzin Rinpoche states that many people followed 5hardza because he

composed a clear system that included the foundational (sngon 'gro) and main

(dngos gzhi) practices. 517 He remarked that, before 5hardza, Bonpos followed the

systems composed by the famous 13th-century master Drugyalwa Yungdrung.

Drugyalwa is famous for two important Dzogchen practice manuals: the Fifteen-

step Instructions on the A and the Experiential Transmission. In the latter, he draws

from the ZZ Oral Transmission, among which he includes the magical movement

teachings of Quintessential Instructions. Drugyalwa was the formative master

from whom 5hardza, almost seven centuries later, adopted ways of organizing

these practices during the 19th and 20th centuries. Yongdzin Rinpoche asserts:

"5hardza's system is based in Drugyalwa's Experiential Transmission." 518

Yongdzin Rinpoche also recounts that in Central Tibet, debate and dialectics

(mtshan nyid) were more popular, whereas in Eastern Tibet practitioners were

516 Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima, Menri Monastery, February 2002. Ponlob Thinley Nyima and Geshe
Nyima Dakota, among other important contemporary representatives of the Bon tradition agree
with this statement (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal conversation (phone), June 29, 2005, Geshe
Nyima Dakpa, personal communication, Houston, TX, May 2005).
517 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, personal communication, Charlottesville, VA, October 2004.
Yongdzin Rinpoche said that Shardza "composed nicely: for the Foundational practices, Shardza
composed the The Ocean of Vast Space (Mkha' klong rgya mtsho) and he used Self-Dawning for the
Main practices."
518 Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, personal communication, Charlottesville, VA, October 2004.
188

drawn more to channels-breaths practices and magical movement. 519 Shardza

lived in the Eastern Tibetan province of Kham, from were Yongdzin Rinpoche is

also from, but he was born close to a year after Shardza's passing. Yongdzin

Rinpoche added that he felt the dialectic became more popular in general Tibetan

education because it was an "easier system."520

Magical Movement Curricula and Practice

With respect to magical movement, Shardza not only wrote Commentary

but also included magical movement from both the ZZ Oral Transmission and

Instructions on the A in Main Points (in Self-Dawning he includes the latter toO).521

Using those practices, which also include the inner heat teachings, Shardza

designed a lOO-day practice retreat curriculum in Main Points, which I will

address below.

He also composed a prayer of channels-breaths (Rtsa rlung gsol btab) that is

included in Self-Dawning522 and is still performed today by magical movement

practitioners, especially when following Main Points. The prayer has a

foundational section (sngon 'gro) that includes an homage or prostration (phyag

519 These were not the only important Bon systems. Yongdzin Rinpoche mentions that the Drenpa
gsang sgrub, containing many prayers to the eighth century sage Drenpa Namkha (Dran pa Nam
mkha') and others, was an important ritual text in the East of Tibet, especially in Kham. And
today that is still continued in exile in Tritan Norbutse (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral
communication, Houston, TX, June 2005).
520 Yongdzin Rinpoche, personal communication, Charlottesville, VA, October 2004.
521 In Buddhist literature, the Tibetan letter A has a small a under it, making it sound like" Ah."
However, in the Bonpo texts it is plain A, a difference that can also be argued, as Tenzin Wangyal
and others do, to be related to the Dzogchen state of no attributes.
189

'tshallo) to the Ever-Excellent One (kun zang), securing a boundary or banishing

obstacles (bgegs bskrad), refuge (skyabs 'gro), generation of the altruistic mind of

enlightenment (sems bskyed) and a maD9-ala offering (mandal'bul). Its main section

consists of prayers to the masters of the mind, the sign and the hearing or

listening lineages (dgongs brta snyan khung gi brgyud pa'i bla ma gsol ba btab)

beginning with the Ever-Excellent One to one's own root master, and also

includes deities, such as Takla Membar (Stag la me 'bar) and enlightened

protectors (bstan srung), such as Yeshe Walmo (Yes shes dbal mo). Sometimes this

prayer is sung together with a drum (damaru) and bell (gshang). After

experiencing the blessings of the lineage, the practitioner is advised to rest in that

meditative state of mind for a moment before engaging in the yogic practices. 523

In Main Points,524 Shardza delineates a lOO-day magical movement retreat

schedule, which includes inner heat, magical movements from the ZZ Oral

Transmission and from the Instructions on the A.525 In this text, which is the most

commonly used Bonpo magical movement system today, Shardza describes a

curriculum and retreat schedule based on the practices explained in Mass of Fire,

522 Self-dawning, Chapter ka, pp. 101 - 104. Its full title is Rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar las
sngon 'gro rjes kyi tshig bshad thugs rjes myur gzigs bshugs.
523 I have seen the Menri Abbot Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima and other monks of Menri monastery
perform the prayer using drum and bell during my field research there, January-March 2002.
524 The title page reads "Here Lie the Oral Wisdom's Main Points of Channels and Vital Breath
Currents" in The Profound Great Sky Treasury (p, 281). And on p. 282, it explains that this text is
"Clarifying a Little and Diminishing the Doubts of the Main Points of the Magical Movement of
Channels and Vital Breath Currents from Self-Dawning" (Rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar gyi
rtsa rlung thig Ie zhal shes dogs sel cung zad 'bri ba).
190

prescribing the yogin to practice four daily sessions for a total of 100 days.526

Although not specifically mentioned in Main Points, practitioners recite the

channels-breaths prayer at the beginning of every session. 527

Shardza's retreat schedule is divided into weekly periods. The first two

weeks are used to perfect the smooth breathing retention (,jam rlung), which

builds up to 108 repetitions in one session. During this time, external

foundational practices (spyi'i sngon 'gro) are prescribed. These help the yogin

familiarize with the channels, vital breath currents and essential spheres (the

latter as a subtle expression of the mind). Special foundational practices (khyed

par gyi sngon 'gro) are prescribed afterward. These include visualization of one's

body as a deity, connecting to the subtle body within and applying the general

foundational practices by securing a boundary, purification breaths and a

preparation for inner heat. 528 While the external foundational practices are done

for the first two weeks, the special foundational practices are to be included in

every session.

525 Shardza includes the set of fifteen and the set of forty magical movements from the
Instructions on the A magical movement.
526 The explanation of the practices added as the days progress are mentioned in the
"implementation" or "engaging in the practice" (lag len) section (Main Points, pp. 306ff.)
527 Menri Abbot Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima, and Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication,
Menri monastery, March 2004. See also earlier footnote.
528 I will not provide the explanation of these practices here, but they can be found in Mass of Fire,
the external preliminaries on pp. 21.6ff and the special foundational practices on pp. 34.5ff.
191

Then, the text instructs the yogin or practitioner, "on the morning of the

15th day, add the magical movement postures or body training (Ius sbyon)."529

The third week includes the foundational magical movement cycle from the ZZ

Oral Transmission, and the set of fifteen magical movements from the Instructions

on the A. During the fourth week, the root magical movement set from the root

cycle of ZZ Oral Transmission is added to the foundational cycle, and the set of

seven upper torso purification magical movements (stong sbyong gi 'phrul 'khor)

from the cycle of forty magical movements from the Instructions on the A is done

instead of the set of fifteen magical movements. 530 Shardza also uses the sound

practices, visualizations and offerings indicated in Instructions on the A magical

movement, which should be applied when a yogin notices an imbalance in terms

of afflictions, humors, heat or cold illnesses. 531 The general offerings (mchod) of

smoke (bsang), water (chu gtor), burnt food (gsur) and cutting attachment to self

(gcod) that most Bonpos perform daily 532 can be incorporated in this curriculum

from the fourth week onward. 533 Shardza exhorts here that "to validate (mgor)

529 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 306.3 - 306.4.


530 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 307.1- 307.5.
531 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 307.5 - 308.2 Also, see A-khrid, p. 198.
532 This way of practicing the four offerings is a traditional Bon custom that is common to all Bon
monasteries, and lay communities (Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak, telephone conversation, August
1998). See also M. Alejandro Chaoul, "Tracing the Origins of CM (gcod) in the Bon Tradition: A
Dialogic Approach Cutting Through Sectarian Boundaries," M.A. Thesis, Charlottesville, VA: The
University of Virginia, January 1999, pp. 54-58.
533 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 309.5 - 310.1.
192

the sessions and protect the mind, one should seal [the practice] with the

dedication prayer (bsngo smon) and contemplation (mnyam bzhag) at the end.// 534

By the end of the fourth week, the smooth breath retention ('jam rlung)

training is completed, and the yogin begins with the medium breath retention

(bar rlung). In this case there is no gradual accumulation, with the yogin

continuing with 108 repetitions. In every session of the fifth week, the medium

breath retention is followed by the pertinent magical movement sets.535 The

magical movement sets added during the fifth week are the clearing obstacles

from the root cycle of ZZ Oral Transmission and the set of six head purification

magical movements (mgo sbyang gi 'phrul 'khor) from the cycle of forty magical

movements from the Instructions on the A.536

In the sixth week, the yogin also includes the root magical movement set

from the branch cycle of ZZ Oral Transmission and the set of eleven body

purification magical movements (ius sbyong gi 'phrul 'khor) from the Instructions

on the A's cycle of forty magical movements. For the eighth and ninth weeks, the

ZZ Oral Transmission's branch magical movements that clear away obstacles from

the root cycle and the special magical movements that clear individual obstacles

away from the head, body and limbs are added, along with the set of nine lower

body purification magical movements (smad sbyong gi 'phrul 'khor) from the

534 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 309.4.


535 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 310.1 - 310.2.
536 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 310.3 - 310.4.
193

Instructions on the A's cycle of forty magical movements. 537 At the end of the

ninth week, one finishes the training of the medium breath retention, bringing

the vital breath currents to different energetic centers and minor channels all

over the subtle body.538

The yogin begins the training in the wrathful breath retention (drag rlung),

described as a mass of fire (me dpung), during the tenth week. This breathing

practice, also done 108 times in each session, is followed by respective magical

movement sets. During this week, the special magical movements that clear

common obstacles away are added together with the seven leg purification

magical movements (rkang sbyong gi 'phrul 'khor) from the cycle of forty magical

movements of the Instructions on the A.539 Therefore, practicing in this way for the

next "five weeks and two days, the one hundred days are completed (tshang

ba)."540 Shardza concludes Main Points with advice on avoidances and supports,

such as when it is useful to use warm clothes, receive a massage and so forth.541

The above-described sequence reflects how magical movement is

practiced today in the main Bonpo monasteries in exile, such as Tritan Norbutse,

537 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 311.5 - 312.1. Although this text mentions them as ten
(bcu), it is clear from Self-Dawning ('Phrul 'khor chapter, p. 5.2) that they are nine (making them
forty altogether).
538 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 312.2 - 313.4. As before, I will not provide the
explanation of these practices here, but they can be found in the lines mentioned.
539 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 313.4 - 314.1.
540 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, p. 314.2 - 314.3.
541 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Main Points, pp. 314 - 319.
194

in Nepal and Menri, in India. 542 This is also the case even in present day T.A.R.

(Tibetan Autonomous Region). In particular there is a group of nuns and female

practitioners (sngag rna, yogini) practicing magical movement using Shardza's

Commentary and Main Points in the Drak Yungdrung kha (Brag g.yung drung kha)

nunnery in the Northeastern Amdo Sharkhog (A mdo shark hog) region. 543

Shardza's significant contribution to systematizing and clarifying the

teachings makes it easier to practice and allows these wonderful practices to

continue. However, they have not been preserved in many places. I was

surprised to hear that, in the Northwestern Dolpo area of Nepal, where the great

Yangton family lineage still continues, they do not practice magical movement,

although their predecessors included axial magical movement figures such as

542 There are two schools of learning that a monk can follow in these monasteries. The majority
follows the monastic curriculum that emphasizes the dialectic and debate school (mtshan nyid),
but a small group follows only the meditation school (sgrub grwa). The latter is oriented towards
meditative techniques and practices, and within this curriculum magical movement is usually
learnt during the winter months of their last year. Shardza Rinpoche also designed this
curriculum. (Menri Abbot Lungotk Tenpa'i Nyima, personal communication, Menri, India 2002).
See also Klein and Wangyal, Unbounded Wholeness, in their discussion using the Sanskrit terms of
pandita and kusali, respectively.
543 Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima, Menri Monastery, India 2002. Geshe Nyima Dakpa, who graduated
from that monastery, reinstated this during his visit to Houston, October, 2004, and added that
one of Shardza's disciples, Thutob Namgyal (Mthu stobs rnam rgyak), now very old, still teaches
this system of magical movement in Shardza's area of Kham. When I first learnt of magical
movement, in Tritsan Norbutse in 1993, and even during my field research trip there in 1995,
Main Points was not mentioned. Instead, the focus was on Quintessential Instructions and
Commentary. I got to learn about Mass of Fire and Main Points in the U.S. during a visit of H.H.
Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima in 1999, and later was fortunate to study it with him in Menri in 2002,
and with Ponlob Thinley Nyima in subsequent occasions.
195

Yangton Chenpo and Bumje Od. 544 In fact, this is the lineage to which Ponlob

Thinley Nyima belongs. He learnt magical movement in Menri with Yongdzin

Tenzin Namdak and H.H. Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima.

There is also a larger three-year curricula by Shardza, which encompasses

Main Points. According to Ponlob Thinley Nyima, there is no specific text that

mentions the curriculum in this way. However, it has been practiced in the

following manner since Shardza's time: the first year includes foundational

practices, inner heat, channels-breaths practices and magical movement; the

second year, inner heat, channels-breaths practices and magical movement,

adding nurturing from the elements practice (bcud len); and the third year the

Dzogchen practices of breakthrough (khregs chad) and direct vision or leap over

(thad rgal). This curriculum also shows the importance of the foundational

practices as a base and the relation between magical movement and higher

Dzogchen practices. 545

II. Magical Movement Reaches to the West

Nearly a century after Shardza's Commentary, there seems to be a growing

interest for the Tibetan physical yogas in the "West." In the last year alone, Yoga

Journal published three articles, one on the different types of Tibetan yogas that

have come to the U.s., a second one on the magical movement paintings of the

544 The last one who taught them, Latsung Yungdrung Gyaltsen (Ela chung g.yungdrung rgyal
mtshan), from the Zomsom area of Northwest Nepal, is also quite old now (personal
communication Houston, October, 2004).
196

"naga temple" (klu Iha kang), also called the secret temple of the Dalai Lamas in

Lhasa, Tibet (behind the famous Potala palace), and one on the benefits of

magical movement with cancer patients. 546

Until now, most of the physical yogas that are taught in the West came

from the Hindu traditions. When Westerners began receiving Tibetan teachings,

they were more focused on receiving teachings from Tibet to develop one's

mind. I believe that this bias has at least two reasons. One is that western

practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism (including Bon) felt that the mind practices

were more important, and thus if a Lama came s/he was asked for mind-related

teachings. The other reason is that many of the Tibetan Lamas supported this

view and were either not trained in magical movement, or felt that it could lead

to problems for the practitioners if not well supervised. Thus, it resulted in a

lack of information about magical movement, combined with a feeling of secrecy

or mysticism around it. 547 Nevertheless, magical movement practices are now

545 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral communication, Houston April 2005.


546 "Into the Mystic," by Elaine Lipson, Yoga Journal, June 2000, "Sacred Temple of the Dalai
Lamas" by Phil Catalfo and "Comfort Zone: Tibetan Yoga may Help Cancer Patients Overcome
Sleep Disturbances and Be More at Ease," by Matthew Solan, Yoga Journal, September/October,
2003. Snow Lion Publications Newsletter also included two articles of my own on 'phrul 'khor. (see
"Tibetan Yoga from the Bon Tradition" and "Spinning the Magical Wheel" in Snow Lion
newsletter. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, Summer 2002 and Winter/Spring 2001,
respectively), and an article on the clinical research study's publication in Cancer ("Tibetan Yoga
Improves Sleep in Cancer Patients," Summer 2004). In fact, the publication of that study in Cancer
brought significant media attention, including local newspaper (Houston Chronicle) and TV news
coverage (Channels 2 and 11) as well as News Medical, American Cancer Society News Center, Florida
College of Integrative Medicine News, and The Washington Post, among others.
547 As the first Yoga Journal article reflects in its title "Into the Mystic."
197

being taught in the West, including training courses and translations of the

original Tibetan texts.

There are many kinds of magical movement practices in the different

Tibetan traditions, and they are slowly being made known in the West. The

Yantra Yoga that is taught in Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche's Dzogchen Community

is based on Sun and Moon-there is also a video available containing the first eight

movements, which aim to purify one's breath (lung sang) and are considered to

be very important preparatory movements for yantra yoga. 548 The Trul khor that is

taught in Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's Ligmincha Institute comes from

Quintessential Instructions and Commentary, on which this dissertation is founded.

The Tibetan Heart Yoga, taught by Geshe Michael Roach and his students, comes

from the Tsongkhapa's commentary on the Six Yogas ofNaropa. 549

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, through his Ligmincha Institute, teaches the

earlier mentioned channels-breaths practices from the Mother Tantra-specifically

from the chapter of the "Sphere of the Elements" (Byung ba'i thig Ie). This practice

familiarizes the practitioner with the five kinds of vital breath currents.

Additionally, magical movement is taught at Ligmincha Institute based on the

ZZ Oral Transmission. However, because the lOO-day curriculum by Shardza is

548 In that video, the movements are performed by one of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche's senior
students, Fabio Andrico. As mentioned in Chapter I, his book should be published in the near
future.
198

almost impossible to do in a Western setting, a curriculum consisting of five five-

day intensive retreats was created to accommodate the teachings. 550

Ligmincha Trul khor Training Course

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is quite aware of the problem of the lack of

context and continuity that westerners sometimes undergo when learning

meditative practices, plus the lack of willingness to get involved in foundational

practices and looking instead for "higher" practices. Thus, at the Ligmincha

Institute he is designing ways to transmit his tradition to western practitioners

by taking into account the conditions of body, speech and mind, and creating

training courses accordingly.

In 2001, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche opened a formal magical movement

training course at Ligmincha's main site, Serenity Ridge, near Charlottesville,

Virginia. This course is composed of five five-day retreats spanning over two

years. The first retreat includes the channels-breaths practices form the Mother

Tantra, the preparatory breathings to magical movement (with the basket

retention) mentioned in Commentary and expanded by Shardza in Mass of Fire

and the first two magical movement sets from ZZ Oral Transmission. 551 In each of

549 I have also read about a Master Zi Sheng Wang, who calls his teachings Vajra Yoga, and my
understanding is that they are based on the Six Yogas of Naropa (see OMEGA Institute catalog
2005, p. 21).
550 In 2000, Tenzin Rinpoche asked me to design such a curriculum, which, under his
supervision, I have also been teaching in the U.S., Mexico and Poland.
551 Both Quintessential Instructions and Commentary are used, but, in general, I am following closer
to Commentary.
199

the two subsequent retreats, two more magical movement sets are taught and

practiced, along with the vase retention for the preparatory breaths. In the fourth

retreat, the seventh and final set is taught, together with tightening more the

retention of the preparatory breathings. This leaves the fifth and last retreat to

the thorough practice of all the movements, breathings and focus of the mind.

The purpose of this course is primarily to offer an opportunity to those

who are seriously interested in beginning or deepening their understanding of

magical movement to have a training program of learning and practice. Some of

the participants are long time meditators with a need for a more embodied

practice, others come from other yoga traditions and yet others are new to any

contemplative practice. The time between retreats allows the participants to

practice and study what was learnt, and then apply it in the next level. A

secondary purpose is to train future instructors that will be able to share with

others the benefits of this practice. Therefore, this training is one of the

prerequisites for a magical movement instructor in this tradition.

In the words of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche:

Trul khor is a wonderful daily practice, especially to control and


handle the stress of our modern life in society. It has the power to
balance the energies of mind and body and it also helps
enormously to support one's meditation practices. I strongly
encourage and recommend everyone to come to these retreats,
either to learn for yourself or to become instructors. 552

552 "The Voice of Clear Light," Ligmincha Institute's Newsletter, Charlottesville, VA: Ligmincha
Institute, 2000.
200

III. From Dharma to Medicine

As mentioned in earlier chapters, the twentieth century also brought the

medicalization of different kinds of yoga and contemplative practices. Tenzin

Wangyal Rinpoche had a long interest in the healing capacity of meditative

practices from his tradition, as well as quantifying and verifying their effects. In

the early 1990s, as a Rockefeller Fellow at Rice University, he begun

conversations with Ellen Gritz, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Behavioral

Science at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson. 553 That seed might have

stayed dormant for a few years. In 2000, I met with Lorenzo Cohen, an Associate

Professor in that department, and since then also the Director of the Integrative

Medicine Program at that institution. He asked me to create a Tibetan Yoga

program for cancer patients. When I reviewed it with Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak

and Tenzin Rinpoche in the summer of 2000, they were extremely supportive,

and so I decided to go forward with this project. 554 The seed had began to

germinate.

A CIM Application with Cancer Patients

Tenzin Rinpoche's open-mindedness and support were crucial for the

development of the study at MD Anderson. 555 Viewing the main goals of magical

553 Other people from both institutions attended that meeting, Dr. Payne from MD. Anderson
and Dr. Anne Klein from Rice University, among them.
554 Had they not been supportive, I had told Dr. Cohen, I would not pursue it.
555 I think that he is in line with HH the Dalai Lama in terms of his open-mindedness to science
and modern medicine.
201

movement as dispelling mental and physical obstacles, the enhancing of

meditative practice and their integration into daily life, the M.D. Anderson

team556 began a study applying the 7-week Tibetan Yoga program referred to

earlier with lymphoma patients. 557 The movements chosen were simple, and yet

they constituted complete cycles: the five external channels-breaths movements

from the Mother Tantra, and foundational cycle magical movements from

Shardza's Commentary. Tenzin Rinpoche reviewed the Tibetan Yoga intervention

program before patient recruitment began.

i. The Study

In the first study of Tibetan Yoga at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 39

lymphoma patients were randomly assigned to be either in a Tibetan yoga

intervention group or in a wait-listed control group.558 The intervention group

received the 7-week Tibetan yoga program, while the latter did not.

Measurements were taken of both groups to compare any significant health or

behavior related changes between participants of one group and the other. In

order to be eligible, lymphoma patients had to be currently undergoing

treatment or had to have concluded treatment, consisting mostly of radiation

556 Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.; Carla Warneke, M.P.H.; Rachel Fouladi, Ph.D.; M. Alma Rodriguez,
M.D; M. Alejandro. Chaoul. M. Alma Rodriguez deserves a special mention. As a medical doctor
at M.D. Anderson and a practitioner at Ligmincha, and knowing my interest, she introduced me
to Place of Wellness. When we began the research project, she was very open to be the MD of the
team and present it to the doctors and patients of the lymphoma clinic. Also I would like to thank
Laura Baynham, Director of Place of Wellness, for referring me to Dr. Cohen.
557 The study was funded by a grant from the Bruce S. Gelb Foundation.
202

and/ or chemotherapy, within the past twelve months. There was an even

distribution of severity of disease between the two groups among those who

were under active treatment. There were 15 patients in each group who were not

receiving treatment for their lymphoma at the time of the study.559

Patients of both groups completed self-reported evaluations at baseline

(i.e., before they began the program) as well as one-week, one-month, and three-

months after the 7-week program. The whole study took almost a full year to

complete, including patient recruitment at the lymphoma clinic at M. D.

Anderson and various 7-week Tibetan yoga interventions at Place of Wellness,

the clinic for elM therapies at M. D. Anderson. We began the 7-week sessions

after each recruitment cycle, which allowed us to teach the classes to four to nine

people in each session.

ii. Results

Eighty-nine percent of Tibetan Yoga participants completed at least two to

three yoga sessions; fifty-eight percent completed at least five sessions. Overall,

the results indicated that the Tibetan yoga program was realistic/ reasonable and

well liked by the patients. The majority of participants indicated that the

program was "a little" or "definitely" beneficial, with no one indicating "not

beneficial," and they continued practicing at least once a week, with many

558 The control group participants had the opportunity to receive the Tibetan yoga intervention
after the 3-month follow-up assessment, and that is why it is called wait-list.
559 Of course, they had concluded treatment within the past twelve months.
203

continuing to practice twice a week or more. 560 (See charts in article, appendix

IV.) It is worthwhile to mention that none of the patients involved in these

studies had any previous knowledge of even the existence of channels-breaths

practices or magical movement, and the majority of the patients had never

engaged in any other meditative or yoga practice before.

Patients in the Tibetan Yoga group reported significantly lower sleep

disturbance scores during the follow-up period than did the patients in the wait-

list control group. This included better subjective sleep quality, faster sleep

latency (i.e., from the moment one decides to sleep until when one actually falls

asleep), sleep duration and less use of sleep medications. Improving sleep quality

in a cancer population may be particularly salient as sleep is crucial for recovery.

Fatigue and sleep disturbances are common problems for patients with cancer.

This research focused on behavioral changes and quality of life improvement. In

the future, it is possible that changes in immune function, blood pressure and

eventually even disease progression could be measured.

Dr. Cohen, the principal investigator of the study, was optimistic about

the results. "'Theoretically, if the Tibetan yoga intervention is found to decrease

the patient's stress level, it could, therefore, have an impact on their immune

560For the complete results of this study, please see Cohen L, Warneke C, Fouladi R, Rodriguez
MA, Chaoul-Reich A., "Psychological Adjustment and Sleep Quality in a Randomized Trial of the
Effects of a Tibetan Yoga Intervention in Patients with Lymphoma," Cancer: Interdisciplinary
Journal of the American Cancer Society, Volume 100, Number la, New York, N.Y., April 16, 2004
(online), May IS, 2004 (print) pp. 2253-60.
204

system," he said. "There is evidence to suggest that stress suppresses cell-

mediated immunity, a component of the immune system involved in tumor

surveillance. Yoga might also have an impact on patients' hormonal activity."'561

As the investigators of this study acknowledged,

Although research into the efficacy and mechanisms of yoga is in


its beginning stages, the findings reported to date are supportive562
and, along with our finding of improved sleep, suggest that the
health effects of yoga in cancer patients should be explored further.
The benefits that have been documented and the potential impact
of these benefits on the psychologic and physical sequelae of cancer
are important enough to warrant the further study of developing
such programs for cancer patients. 563

IV. Looking Into the Future

The clinical study mentioned above shows encouraging signs for the

positive effect that magical movement might have with cancer patients.

Furthermore, it is possible to do similar studies, extending them to other cancer

or medical populations. Scientific validity will help convey the practice to a

larger audience, including general public and western Buddhist practitioners.

A second study is now examining the benefits of this Tibetan yoga

program on both psychological and physiological (immune and hormone

function) outcomes in women with breast cancer. This is a larger study with 59

561 Ibid.
562 Telles 5, Naveen K.V, "Yoga for rehabilitation: an overview," Indian Journal of Medical Science,
1997;51: 123-127.
205

participants with eligibility factors similar to the lymphoma study. It follows the

same 7-week Tibetan Yoga program, as well as the self-reported forms of

measurement and structure of assessment. These pilot programs are among the

few studies of yoga in a cancer patient population and the only scientific study of

magical movement in any population. The fact that the first study was published

in a mainstream medical journal such as Cancer (see appendix VI) is another

promising sign fostering the inclusion of Tibetan practices within the CIM

clinical services and research possibilities. A grant proposal to the NIH (National

Institutes of Health) is awaiting approval for funding, which will allow a five-

year study of magical movement with breast cancer patients.

The uniqueness of this research is the direct involvement from

representatives of the Western biomedical and behavioral sciences communities

and representatives of the Bon tradition in integrating and expanding upon the

source of Tibetan Yoga practices. 564 In the last couple of meetings, attended by

both Dr. Lorenzo Cohen and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, we began exploring

research tools that could assess not only what is interesting from the biomedical

and behavioral scientific approaches, but also whether the benefits mentioned in

563 Cohen L, Warneke C, Fouladi R, Rodriguez MA, Chaoul-Reich A., "Psychological Adjustment
and Sleep Ql!ality in a Randomized Trial of the Effects of a Tibetan Yoga Intervention in Patients
with Lymphoma," p. 2259.
564 Interestingly, some Tibetan doctors are still today engaged in learning and utilizing rtsa rlung
'phrul 'khor practices. According to Mona Schrempf's research with Tibetan lineage doctors in
Nag chu (TAR), a particular doctor who also happened to be a Bon monk used rtsa rlung 'phrul
'khor practices for himself and his patients (Schrempf in personal communication). The potential
206

the magical movement texts can actually be proven to be true outcomes for these

cancer patients. In fact, dialoguing also with Tibetan Dr. Yeshe Dhonden, former

physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we discussed the possibility of

including Tibetan medical assessments to a sub-group of the breast cancer

population of the study. In that way, one could also evaluate, according to

patients humoral constitution, to whom the magical movements would be more

beneficial, or detrimental, and perhaps, indicating different movements for

different patients. 565 I consider this kind of interaction and mutual participation

an important step towards a more integrative model of applying Tibetan

traditional modalities of healing together with western science and research

methods. 566

practice of rtsa rlung 'phrul 'khor within the Tibetan medical community is another very
interesting subject that I hope to explore further in the future.
565 The meeting took place under the Integrative Medicine Program at M.D. Anderson Cancer
Center, Houston, TX, September 20, 2005.
566 A pioneering effort in this matter is the work of the Life-Mind Institute and especially their
"Investigating the Mind" conference at MIT University, Boston, MA (September 2003). At that
time, clinical research was presented and opened the dialogue amongst western researchers,
Buddhist scholars and practitioners, and the presence and input of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
raising the importance of this kind of collaboration to both scientific and public awareness. In
November, 2005, there was a follow-up conference in Washington, D.C, focused on "The Science
and Clinical Applications of Meditation."
207

Chapter 5: Let the Magic Continue

The Bon ZZ Oral Transmission is clearly an oral tradition dating before the

eighth century CEo However, it is around that time that it comes into writing for

the first time thanks to the master Nangzher Lopo. Pongyal Tsenpo, who

probably lived a century or century and a half after Nangzher Lopo, is

mentioned by Reynolds567 as the first master of that tradition to put into writing

the magical movement teachings. However, since not extant, it is not clear in

what form or how many movements were included in his version. The ZZ Oral

Transmission compendium as we know it today is largely identical to Bumjeo's

compilation in the 11th-12th centuries, and it included the magical movement

text, Quintessential Instructions, in its present form. As I mention in chapters 3 and

4, I believe that Bumjeo is also the compiler and author of Quintessential

Instructions. This text, the 13th century Drugyalwa's Experiential Transmission and

the 20th century Commentary by Shardza are the main sources of the ZZ Oral

Transmission's magical movement to the present day Bonpo lay and monastics.

The magical movements contained in these texts are unique, although

they share similarities with other Tibetan magical movement, such as Sun and

Moon and those of the Six Yogas. The holding of the breath and the moving

postures seem to be characteristics common to all Tibetan yogic practices, in

567 See chapter 3, in the section of colophon to the texts.


208

distinction to its Indian and Chinese counterparts, as I discussed in chapters 1

and 2.

In pursuing the comparison of Tibetan magical movement with Indian

yoga, the theories of the subtle body dynamics became clear, at least as

speculations. Chapter 2 is largely the development of those theories. Supported

by and departing from the kU1J~alinl-dynamics that White describes in terms of

pneumatic and hydraulic, I arrive to what I am calling ma~~ala-dynamism,

mostly pneumatic, which I see as the underlying principle of magical movement,

certainly for those in the ZZ Oral Transmission. In fact, that way of understanding

the body led me to question the literal meaning of "magic" in 'phrul 'khor and

propose that, in these magical movements, magic can have the external meaning

of magic, the internal meaning of medicine and the most internal, also called

secret (gsang), of mysticism. Thus, the "perfection" of the body through magical

movement encompasses all three components without having to be an either-or

choice. These magical movements work as a body-energy-mind system, thus

having its effects pervade the whole system.

The pervasive vital breath current is, as Shardza emphasizes, the principal

breath in magical movement, enabling this body-energy-mind system to take

different mandalic forms. Magical movement could be said to be an "advanced


209

technology" that brings forth this magic that is not limited to the externa1. 568 The

actual movements, presented in chapter 3, clearly show this "breaking" or going

beyond the limitations of the body. Some movements state this clearly in their

names, like Extending the Limits of the Four Continents (i.e., limbs) and

Collecting the Four [limbs] Clearing Away Limitations. 569 Other movements

express this beyond the human body, relating to the animal movements (or the

animal aspect in our humanity), as is the case of all the movements in the root

magical movement set that clears away obstacles and many in other sets, relating

to duck, peacock, crow, hawk, yak, donkey, tigress, deer, antelope, and even the

mythical garuda. There are some other names that relate to nature, such as

Collecting the Four Stalks, the Natural Descent of the Four Elements and Stirring

the Depths of the Ocean. Eliade and Alter following him relate the names of

animals and nature in Indian asanas to a shamanic modality of relating to and

imitating the natural environment and having mastery over it.570 Alter mentions

that there are no Indian asana names in reference to humans. However, we do

see reference to humans and body parts within the names of different magical

movements. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk is part of the last set and human

body parts such as Purification of the Arms, and so forth are mentioned as part

of the foundational and first special sets. There are also names referring to man-

568 I am appropriating Arthur Clarke's words, although in a slightly different context.


569 Both within the branch magical movement set that clears away obstacles,
570 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 320 and J. Alter, Yoga in Modern India, p. 238.
210

made elements like Spinning like a Wheel, Skylight of Wisdom, Athlete's

Hammer, and so forth, and others that include a human emotion or affliction to

be overcome, such as those in the root magical movement set-although in the

Bon and Buddhist ideology these afflictions are not limited to humans; animals,

hungry ghosts, hell beings and even godly beings also have them. 571

Therefore, all magical movements, whether having names relating to

nature, animals, human, etc., have the intention of breaking through one's usual

limitations to then abide in that state of mind "beyond" habitual patterns and

more related to one's natural state. This objective is usually described in a

Tibetan saying that Ponlob said in English: "If you squeeze a snake with your

hands, you will see its legs coming out," which refers how through the squeezing

and twisting of the body in magical movement, visionary experiences

manifest,572 In other words, all these movements have the potential for the yogin

to bring forth the mystical experiences-besides the magical and healing

discussed earlier. This, I believe, is similar to what Eliade states of yoga

expressing the "magico-religious spirituality of India."573

Alter, on the other hand, emphasizes yoga's aspects of science and

religion in its search for a "Universal Truth." In that sense, I feel he underscores a

571 Godly beings are still unenlightened, not related to the idea of God in monotheistic religions.
572 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, confirmed also by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and Khenpo Tenpa
Yungdrung.
573 M. Eliade, Yoga, p. 319.
211

uniqueness of yoga that can also be applied to magical movement, when he

writes:

It [yoga] claims to articulate a kind of truth based on universal laws


that extend "beyond" nature and beyond the attribution of power
to God. Yet the experience of these laws through the medium of the
embodied self is extremely "personal" and therefore "local" on a
subcultural, purely experientialleve1. 574

This is also very significant in magical movement and all meditative practices of

the Bon and Buddhist traditions. In other words, besides what we can see with

our scholar hat or eyes from a third-person perspective, there is the first-person

phenomenological perspective of the yogin or practitioner, which can also be

brought into conversation with the former and expand one's understanding of

the phenomena in question, in this case, magical movement.

In fact, this is a point that H.H. the Dalai Lama and Chilean biologist

Francisco Varela, among others, have been emphasizing for almost two decades

as an important component in the dialogue between science and spirituality "to

reinstate first-person experience as a source of scientific knowledge, and open

scientific inquiry to methods such as meditation."575 In the series of dialogues

from the Mind-Life Institute, mentioned in chapter 4, that began in 1987 with

"Dialogues between Buddhism and Cognitive Sciences," many scientists,

Buddhists, and buddhologists have met over the years trying to find common

574 J. Alter, Yoga in Modern India, p. 238.


575 Computer Scientist Eleanor Rosch talking about Varela in "Two Sciences of Mind," Shambhala
Sun, September 2005, p. 36.
212

ground between the two empirical traditions of bio-behavioral western science

and the, at least, 2500-year old Buddhist study of the mind.

In "Studying Mind from the Inside," H.H. the Dalai Lama states:

The problem of describing the subjective experiences of


consciousness is complex indeed. For we risk objectivizing what is
essentially and internal set of experiences and excluding the
necessary presence of the experiencer. We cannot remove ourselves
from the equation. 576

So, when we read the benefits stated at the end of each magical movement

set, they are described from that first person "experiencer" perspective.

Nevertheless, as scholars we tend to read them, or want to read them, as if they

were objective benefits. In other words, everyone who practices these

movements should accomplish these benefits. And I believe that is also true. The

text is implying that those are the fruits that can be expected, not guaranteed

though, when practicing as the texts and the lamas instruct.

As we move into its applications in the field of western medicine, it is

even more expected that this "intervention," as would be called in bio-behavioral

research, or this "mind-body therapy," in clinical setting, could be reproduced

with the same "outcomes"- their word for benefits.

Also, the types of results they are looking for are different. Tibetan texts

do not explicitly mention concepts of stress reduction, the elimination of

576His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "Studying Mind from the Inside," Shambhala Sun, September
2005, pp. 45 - 46. (excerpt from His Holiness The Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom,
Morgan Road Books, 2005).
213

intrusive thoughts, or improvement of sleep as benefits. However, as Ponlob

Thinley Nyima agrees, these and other related outcomes may be included as

secondary benefits related to the clearing away of obscurations. 577 Namkhai

Norbu also mentions these outcomes as secondary benefits from yogic practices,

writing that they "help one to approach contemplation ... or to achieve some

specific aim, such as healing oneself and others."578

The application of the Bon magical movement practices from the ZZ Oral

Transmission in contemporary medical settings, such as M.D. Anderson, have

shown, as I point out in this dissertation, that now these ancient yogic practices

can be said to have an impact in those important measurements from the psycho-

behavioral (or bio-behavioral) perspective. Are these benefits solely under the

realm of medicine? Have we lost the magic and contemplative/mystical benefits

by bringing them to this modem setting?

I would like to propose that it is not necessarily the case that we need to

use a reductionist model of one or the other side. Rather, I believe that there is a

possibility of an inclusive dialogue where both kinds of perspectives are

integrated. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes:

what is required .. .is nothing short of a paradigm shift. That is, the
third-person perspective which we can measure phenomena from
the point of view of an independent observer, must be integrated
with a first-person perspective, which will allow the incorporation
of subjectivity and the qualities that characterize the experience of

577 Ponlob Thinley Nyima, "Mind-body practices of the ancient Tibetan Bon tradition."
578 Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, pp. 93-94.
214

consciousness. I am suggesting the need for the method of our


investigation to be appropriate to the object of inquiry.579

In some sense, this is a direction that some are taking. Certainly it is the way that

these dialogues are intended, even if not yet there. The same is true with the pilot

study on magical movement mentioned here. The measurements were all

subjective; yet they are forms that have validation within the bio-behavioral

sciences as the same outcomes can be replicated. In the second study, some

objective measurements, testing blood and saliva, were done together with the

subjective ones, and eventually more objective and subjective measurements

done together will provide us with better well-rounded information. Most

studies of this kind are following the same route. I believe this dissertation opens

a larger dialog on magical movement, one that extends the conversation to the

fields of medical humanity and integrative medicine. And possibly to others too.

So, it is quite startling the traveling of magical movements from Zhang

Zhung to Tibet, to India and Nepal, and now to the USA, Latin America and

Europe. From an oral tradition of one master to his disciple through a bamboo

cane, to an opening even beyond the dharma/Buddhist setting, the magic seems

to touch in many ways from mystical Tibet to Western applied scientific model.

As it helps patients sleep better, let us hope it also helps in spiritual awakening.

579 His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "Studying Mind from the Inside," p. 48.
215

APPENDIX SECTION
216

APPENDIX I

Annotated Bibliographical Sources

1. Tibetan Sources
"Quintessential Instructions of the Oral Wisdom of Magical Movements" ('phrul
'khor zhal shes man ngag, here referred to as Quintessential Instructions).l Last
chapter of ZZ Oral Transmission.

Magical Movements, Channels, and Vital Breath of the Oral Transmission [of Zhang
ZhungJ (Snyan rgyud rtsa rlung 'khrul'khor, here referred as Commentary)} by the
famous Bonpo scholar Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (Shar rdza bkhra shis rgyal mtshan,
1859-1934).3

Gyalwa's Instruction Manual of the Experiential Transmission [of Zhang Zhung]


(Nyams rgyud rgyal ba'i phyag khrid bzhugs so, known as Experiential Transmission),4
by the famous 13th-century Bonpo master Drugyalwa Yungdrung (Bru rgyal ba
G.yung drung).5 I focus on chapter 10: "Magical Movements Stages that Clear
Away the Obstacles" (Gegs sel 'phrul 'khor rim), which claims to be identical to
Quintessential Instructions. 6

1 "The Great Perfection Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung," pp. 631-643. As noted earlier, I will

be using "Great Completion" instead of Great Perfection.


2 Although the title of the text does not include the word "commentary," I feel comfortable
referring to it as such in the context of this dissertation, since I feel that it clearly marks its
relation to Quintessential Instructions.
3 Gyaltsen, Shardza T. Byang zab nam mkha' mdzod chen las Snyan rgyud rtsa rlung 'phrul 'khor In:
NAM MKHA MDZOD Vol. I-III, ed. by Sonam N, Gyaltsen PLS, Gyatso K, Tibetan Bonpo
Monastic Centre: New Thobgyal, 1974, pp. 321-346. Commentary is thus included within
Shardza's collection "Vast Profound Sky's Great Treasury" (Byang zab nam mkha' mdzod chen).
4 Although sometimes it is also known as "Instruction Manual" (Phyag khrid). Some lamas, and

thus their students, call it Nyams rgyud while others call it Phyag khrid, and sometimes they use
both terms indistinctively. An "Experiential Transmission," is usually a compilation of excerpts
from a text, focusing on the experiential aspects vis a vis the more theoretical components. An
"Instruction Manual" is a guideline of practices for the adept to follow in step-by-step manner.
This text is both.
S Edited by Ora rtsa bstan 'dzin dar rgyas, Kathmandu, Nepal: Tritan Norbutse Bbnpo

Monastery, 2002
6 The full title is Snyan rgyud gegs sel'phrul 'khor rim, and is Ch.10 of Experiential Transmission,

pp. 253-264. As we will see in the next section, Orugyalwa makes a few changes, but in essence it
is as he presents it, the same text: Quintessential Instructions.
217

Shardza's "Mass of Fire Primordial Wisdom: Bringing Into Experience the


Common Inner Heat" (Thun mong gtum mo'i nyams len ye shes me dpung, hereafter
Mass of Fire).7

Shardza's "The Oral Wisdom of the Main Points of Channels-Breaths [practices]"


(Rtsa rlung gnad kyi zhal shes, hereafter Main Points). An auto-commentary or
explanation of Mass of Fire. It includes practical guidance on following the
practices of Mass of Fire during a IOO-day retreat, part of which I explain in
chapter 4. 8

II. Magical Movement in Western Translations

Namkhai Norbu's Yantra Yoga describes the preliminary or foundational (sngon

'gro) set of eight movements found in the text by Vairocana (Be ro tsa na), Magical

Movements of Union of Sun and Moon ('Phrul 'khor nyi zla kha byor, hereafter Sun

and Moon).9

7 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, "Thun mong gdum mi'i nyams len ye shes me dpung," Rdzogs pa chen
po sku gsum rang shar gyi khrid gdams skor, ed. by K. Gyatso, Delhi: TBMC, 1974, pp. 551-597. Thus,
Mass of Fire is included in Shardza's collection called Great Completeness Cycle of Instructions on the
Three Self Dawning Dimensions (Rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar gyi khrid gdams skor, hereafter
Self-Dawning).
8 Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Rtsa rlung gnad kyi zhal shes Main Points, like Commentary, is part

Shardza's Vast Profound Sky's Great Treasury, pp. 281-319. Page 282 provides this texts's full name,
making clear that it is also a commentary on Mass of Fire: rdzogs pa chen po sku gsum rang shar gyi
rtsa rlung thig Ie zhal shes dogs sel cung zang 'bri ba la thun mong gtum mo'i nyams len shes pa'i thun
mongo
9 Namkhai Norbu, Yantra Yoga. I have heard, however, that Namkhai Norbu and Adriano

Clemente are soon to publish the translation of Sun and Moon (Yantra Yoga: The Tibetan Yoga of
Movement, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, forthcoming 2005). In its foreword, Adriano
Clemente explains that it seems that a text on inner heat was once part of the training system
known as "The Oral Transmission of Vairochana," but it is "currently unavailable." Thus it is not
clear precisely what the relation between inner heat and magical movements might have been in
that system. I am grateful to Snow Lion Publications for sharing their marketing package of this
forthcoming text.
218

There are a few scholarly expositions in English on the famous Six Yogas or

Teachings of Naropa (Naro chos drug, hereafter Six Yogas), by Evans-Wentz,

Garma c.c. Chang and Herbert Guenther. lO

Working outside the academy, Glenn Mullin has done extensive work on the Six

Yogas and especially on Tsongkhapa's (Tsong kha pa) commentary on the Six

Yogas and related works. ll And Geshe Michael Roach in a book for practitioners

10 Evans-Wentz, W. Y. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, London and New York: Oxford

University Press, 1935, rp. 1958 and 1967 (translations were done by Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup
and interpretation by Evans-Wentz. In the 1967 edition they added more explanation by Garma
c.c. Chang).
Chang, in collaboration with Charles Muses, translated Tsongkhapa's commentary to it (see
footnote 2) in Muses, Charles, Esoteric Teachings of the Tibetan Tantra, [Lausanne, Switzerland]:
Falcon Wings Press, 1961.
Herbert Guenther also includes a translation of the Six Yogas in The Life and Teachings of Naropa
(Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1963). It does not include any translation of magical
movement. However, at the end of the gtum mo (which he translates as 'mystic hear), he
mentions the qualities of the five kinds of vital breath currents, which as we will see later are
intimately related to the channels-breaths practices (p. 61).
Note: Guenther's translation and interpretation is considered a superior work of scholarship due
to his own preparation and training both in Tibetan language and philosophy. Evan-Wentz' and
Chang's translations and interpretations were nonetheless important pioneering works. Having
to rely on others for the translation (mostly Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup), they encountered the
limitations and difficulties that, as they acknowledge, could be expected of translating concepts
that were "new to Western thought" (W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga: Secret Doctrines, 1967,
Preface to the first edition (1934), p.vii).
11 Mullin re-translated Tsongkhapa's text in Glenn Mullin, Tsongkhapa's Six Yogas of Naropa,

Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publication, 1996, and then wrote a companion to it, mentioned earlier,
Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa. In it he mentions that although "[e]arly scholars such as Dr.
Evans-Wentz, Prof. Herbert Guenther, and Garma c.c. Chang used the term "yoga" in their
translation of the Tibetan word "chos" and consequently established it as a standard in the
Western Buddhist world," (Glenn Mullin, Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa, p.13). I believe that
the multivalent term chos could be better understood as "teachings" or "doctrines" here. This is
quite a complex issue, since both the Tibetan term chos and the Sanskrit yoga have a variety of
meanings and are not necessarily synonymous. Yoga, in Tibetan, is more often translated as snal
byor; and chos would be more often equivalent of dharma.
He notes that among the Six Yogas traditions, not all texts included magical movements (Glenn
Mullin, Tsongkhapa's Six Yogas of Naropa, p. 133). Apparently it is primarily in texts from systems
taught by the earlier masters, such as the twelfth century lama Pakmo Drupa (Dpal phag mo gru
pa), who included magical movements, and in such cases they were placed either within or
immediately following the inner heat yoga. In his manual, Verses on the Path Technology: A
219

called Tibetan Heart Yoga presents a series of six movements that he recommends

to be "piggybacked" to hatha yoga postures. 12

III. Scientific Studies on Mind-Body Practices

Elizabeth De Michelis, "Notes on Some Formative Aspects of Modern Yoga: The


Problem of Knowledge Transmission and Modern Yoga's Relation to Western
Scientific Thought.,,13 De Michelis emphasizes that it is the Indian themselves,
and not the Westerners, that started the "scientific approach to yoga," which she
claims was fueled by Swami Vivekananda's Raja Yoga (1896). She states that the
Yoga Institute of Bombay (1918) by Shri Yogendra (born Manibhai H. Desai) and
the Kaivalyadhama Institute in Lonavla (1924) by Swami Kuvalayananda (born
J.G. Gune) are important pioneers in this scientific approach to yoga. See also
Elizabeth De Michelis, A History of Modern Yoga (London and New York:
Continuum, 2004).

Joseph Alter, Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy/4 goes
deeper into the scientific research of yoga by Shri Yogendra and Swami
Kuvalayananda, mentioning their studies as early as the 1920's using
"microscopes, X-ray machines, and blood pressure gauges" (p. 77). See also
Joseph Alter, "Modern Medical Yoga" (Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity,
vol.l, No.1, 2005, pp. 119-146).

Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of
Human Nature,lS mentions the studies above as well as other scientific studies
that have been done on contemplative experiences not only with Indian yogis
but also with Japanese Zen Buddhist monks. Especially in his chapter on
"Scientific Studies of Contemplative Experience,,16 Murphy also mentions
"contemporary meditation research" by Hebert Benson, Keith Wallace and Jon
Kabat-Zinn, among others. They also expanded their research to include Tibetan

Supplement (Thabs lam tshigs bcad ma'i lhan thabs), he describes "six exercises for purifying the
body" (Glenn Mullin, Tsongkhapa's Six Yogas ofNaropa, p. 134).
12 Geshe Michael Roach, The Tibetan Book of Yoga: Ancient Buddhist Teachings on the Philosophy and

Practice of Yoga, USA: Doubleday, 2004.


13 Paper presented at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, May 23, 2002.
14 Joseph Alter, Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy, Princeton University

Press, 2004.
15 Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature,

New York: Penguin Putnam, 1992.


16 Michael Murphy, The Future of the Body, pp. 527 - 539.
220

monks, Buddhist practitioners, as well as training and research in non-


meditators.

It important to bear in mind that Murphy's book was published more than a
decade ago, and so new studies of this kind have emerged, including studies
with Qigong, the main Chinese mind-body technique. 17 In other words, there are
studies of this kind with mind-body practices of all over Asia.

A Brief List of Scientific Studies of Asian Mind-Body Practices

Monro, Robin, A.K. Gosh, and Daniel Kalish 1989, Yoga Research Bibliography:
Scientific Studies on Yoga and Meditation ( Cambridge: Yoga Biomedical Trust).
This is a very good synopsis of the research studies with Indian yoga, including
the studies by Shri yogendra and Swami Kuvalayananda.

Herbert Benson, et aI, "Three Case Reports of the Metabolic and


Electroencephalographic Changes During Advanced Buddhist Meditation
Techniques," Behavioral Medicine, 16:2 (1990), pp.90-95.

Herbert Benson, and Jeffrey Hopkins, "Body temperature changes during the
practice of gTum-mo yoga," Nature, 295 (21 January, 1982), pp.234-236. This was
done with Tibetan monks in the lower Indian Himalayas. A follow-up study is in
process with monks of Tritan Norbutse monastery, mentioned in this
disserta tion.
Kabat-Zinn, J. "An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain
patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical
considerations and preliminary results." General Hospital Psychiatry, 4 (1982), pp.
33-47.
Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, 1., & Burney, R. "The clinical use of mindfulness
meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain," Journal of Behavioral Medicine,
8(2), (1985), pp. 163-190.

Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A.O., Kristeller, J., Peterson, L.G., Fletcher, K.E., Pbert,
1., et al. "Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the
treatment of anxiety disorders," American Journal of Psychiatry, 149(7), (1992), pp.
936-942).

17 See Kevin Chen, and Raphael Yeung, "Exploratory Studies of Qigong Therapy for Cancer in

China," Integrative Cancer Therapies, 1(4); 2002, pp. 345-370.


221

APPENDIX II

I. The Three Channels 18

Figure 1

18 Picture from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Yagas afDream and Sleep, p. 47.
222

II. Channels-Breaths Correlation Chart. 19

UPWARD LIFE FORCE PERVASIVE FIRE~LIKE DOWNWARD


MOVING .-
MOVING

COLOR and YELLOW WHITE -GREEN RED BLUE


ELEMENT earth wind space wind air wind fire wind water wind

> '

WHERE THE Throat and Heart Entire body Navel and Anus and
PRANA ABIDES brain -intestines sexual organs
--
Diffused shape-
ENERGI?TIC Similar to brain Jewellike the heart like radiating Triangular with Bellows-like
SHAPE sUnlight flames
Energetic
ACTION OF Able to breathe Able to accomplish- commUnications Digestion, - Elimination,
THEPRANA and speak Willpower throughout the produces heat lovemaking
body _
Opens Qimension of
HIGHER LEVEL Opens higher Prolongs life, Increase of Produces bliss secret level of practice;
OF FUNCTION diinension in strengthens magical powers controlled uSe of energy
crown chakra memories utilized to achieve a
practice outcome

-BENEFIT Sharpen senses, Increases life force, .Energizes, Nourishes body Grounding
reduce headaches sharpens the mind strengthens

NEGATIVE Loss of hearing Short memory, Paralysis Poor digestion, Constipation, I!rinary
EFFECT OF and sight early death vomiting tract problems
ABSENCE

Uplifted soul, Wisdom qualities, Increased magical Experiences of Ability to achieve


MEDITATIVE lots of laught~,_ ..good contemplation powers spaciousness. higher tantric practices
EFFECT ability to sing Produces heat, with partner or not
joy, bliss

NEGATIVE Negative speech Anger in the heart, Jealousy, jumping Sleepy, dullness Misuse of desire
EMOTIONAL hurtful speech to conclusions
EFFECT-
WHENPRANA
IS MOVING
POORLY

SIGNS OF Dreams of master, Long life; Reincarnation Developing Walking fast, levitation,
REALIZING giving/receiving can transfer positive clearing, eliminating
FIVEPRANIC teachings, consciousness at relationships to things from our lives
QUALITIES- going to heaven times of death fire and water
MYSTIC
EXPERIENCES IN
DREAM
PRACTICE

19 From Ligmincha Institute, Charlottesville, VA, 2001.


223

III. The Nine Kinds of Vital Breath Currents. 20

NAME OF-I:.UNG TIBETAN PRONUNCIATION ACTION


NAME
-

J::,~:SbNllAL Bon nyigyi ying lung Action of essential


~~'~l'a'lS~~'~~l
LU.Nli
OF BON NATURE nature
'.

BUSSFUL WISDOM , Ye she gyi de lung Cultivates wisdom


LUNG ~'4~'a'~~'~'1

SPONTANEOUS
LUNG OF INNATE ~~·q~·:.1;,"·~~1 lUg pai rang lung Self-arising nature
AWARENESS
.,.

- WINDHORSE: LUNG Yid gyi ta lung Movement of thoughts


OF MOVING MIND tql'a'~'~~l

TransitiQns in life and


FORCEFUL KARMIC Lt! gyi shug Jung the intermediate state of
LUNG clJ~'a~~~'~'l the bardo after death
!

GROSS EMOTIONAL NYOD mODg psi tsub Actions of the five


LUNG ~~·;:r,,~·q~·~~·~~1 Jun'g poisons

DISEASE- CAUSING Du bsi trug Jung Imbalance through


LUNG -_ ~··q~·~~·~·l excess or deficiency

POWERFUL LUNG Sid psi tob lung Actionsofnaturwlaw


OF EXISTENCE ~l·q~·W~~·~"·l

ERA-DESTROYING KaJ psi jig Jung Actions of destruction


LUNG ~clJ·q~·a.~~~·~"·l that end an era of time

20 From Ligmincha Institute, Charlottesville, VA, 2001.


224

Appendix III

I. Translation: Shardza's Commentary


Title (321)
The Channels and Vital Breath Currents' Magical Movement from
the Oral Transmission [of Zhang Zhung], in The Very Profound Sky
Great Treasury. 1

Homage and Introduction (322)

Homage to the Ever-Excellent One (Kun tu bzang po), who clears the outer

and inner interruptions (bar chod).2 Regarding this Oral Transmission [of Zhang

Zhung]'s channels and vital breath currents' magical movement, Quintessential

Instructions states:

Regarding rooting out (phyung) poisons associated with the vital


breath currents and training the channels, [first] forcefully expel
('bud) the coarse breath current through the right [channel/nostril],
[and then] leisurely inhale long breath currents through the left
[channel/nostril]. 3

1 Commentary, p. 321. Title in Quintessential Instructions (p. 631) reads: Quintessential Instructions

of the Magical Movements from the Great Completion Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung
(Rdzogs pa chen po zhang zhung snyan rgyud las 'phrul 'khor zhal shes man ngag). Notice that Shardza
uses the spelling of 'khrul 'khor instead of 'phrul 'khor in Quintessential Instructions. As mentioned
in Chapter l,'phrul 'khor is the appropriate spelling.
2 Commentary, p. 322. Secret interruptions are included within the inner, asserts Ponlob Thinley

Nyima (personal communication, Houston, October 2002).


3 Quintessential Instructions 632,2-632.3. Note that in Quintessential Instructions it is bsdu meaning

"draw," "dissolve," or "gather," while in Commentary it is rngubs meaning "inhale." I feel that the
meaning is the same, but I am just pointing to the fact that Shardza chooses another word.
225

This is the method for rooting away poisons of the vital breath currents; oral

explanation from a teacher [is needed V Holding pervasively (khyab par) the

neutral (ma ning)/non-dual [vital-breath] through one's entire body is the

primary vital-breath: the smooth [holding] vital-breath ('jam rlung), the middle

[holding] vital-breath (bar rlung) and the coarse (rtsub rlung) or forceful [holding]

vital-breath (drag rlung) are the three [kinds of breath retention]. All three, the

smooth, coarse and middle [holdings], are done in four sessions drawing in 108

times and expelling; at the end of each [session] the magical movement is

performed, which has four [cycles]: foundational (sngon 'gro), root (rtsa ba),

branch (yan lag) and special (bye brag).

Foundational Cycle (323)

Although the foundational [movements] are described as being six in

Quintessential Instructions, according to oral explanation (zhal shes),5 they are

condensed into five: Purification of the Head (mgo sbyang), Purification of the

Legs (rkang sbyang), Purification of the Arms (lag sbyang), Purification of the

4 Here I am translating "oral" for zhal, literally "from mouth." This can be though to be the

counterpart of "listening" (snyan) within the orality process referred to earlier.


5 It is unclear the source of these oral explanations, i.e., if they come from Shardza's own teacher
or from earlier ones. Furthermore, Ponlob Thinley Nyima points out that zhal shes in this context
should actually be zhal las shes, meaning "oral wisdom or explication" from a lama. This can be
confusing in Commentary, since the text itself refers to Quintessential Instructions as zhal shes when
citing from it. Ponlob unequivocally asserts that zhal shes should refer to Quintessential Instructions
and zhal las shes to oral explanation by a lama, and thus this is clearly a mistake in Commentary
here, and it should be zhal las shes (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Houston,
August 2003).
226

Upper Torso (stod sbyang), and Purification of the Lower Part [of the body] (srnad

sbyang).6

1. Purification of the Head. 7

Sit in the cross-legged meditation posture (skyil krung)8 and sweep (byug)

your two hands downward from the head to the body in three directions: to the

right, to the left and directly in front, one time each sequentially. In order to send

out ('don) the illnesses and harmful disturbances from afflictive obstructions (sdig

sgrib) and spirits (gdon), sound ha and, stirring from the depth of cyclic existence,

while at the same time shaking the body and limbs, reflect (bsarn) on all sentient

beings as Buddhas sounding phat. Implement ('dres)9 these vocalizations to all the

magical movements.

2. Purification of the Legs. 10

Sit with both legs extended, with the fingers of the left hand (lag sor)

circling ('khyud) at the waist; and with the right hand sweep vigorously the right

side of the body down the right leg, hold (bzung) the top (rna) of the toes (rkang

6 Commentary 323.3 - 323.4 for the listing, followed by the description ending in 326.2. Shardza's
explanation is a welcome clarification for practitioners. While in Quintessential Instructions the
foundational cycle seems solely a preparation for the main three cycles that follow, in
Commentary it is not a simple preparation, but is actually one of the magical movement cycles.
Shardza makes a clear distinction between each movement within this initial set. In other words,
the six stages referred to in Quintessential Instructions seem more of a single magical movement
with six parts, rather than six distinct magical movements.
7 Commentary 323.5 - 324.2.

8 Skyil krung can sometimes mean half-lotus, or full lotus, also called g.yung drung or vajra (Menri

Abbot Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima and Ponlob Thinley Nyima, personal communication, Menri
monastery, February 2002).
9 It seems that 'dres and 'gres are used in distinctively.

10 Commentary 324.2 - 324.4.


227

pa'i sor) and shake (sprugs). Do seven times and then apply ('gres) likewise (bzhin)

to the left.

3. Purification of the Arms. 11

Sit in the cross-legged posture and, with the thumb (mthe bong)12 of the

right hand pressing (nan) the ring finger (srin mdzub ma), maintain (bcangs pa) a

fist (khu tshur). Merely touching at the armpit (mchan khung) with this fist, which

is called diamond-scepter fist (or vajra-fist), forcefully extend it outwards

releasing (bkrol) the fingers. Perform in this way (ltar) seven times, and apply

likewise also to the left.

4. Purification of the Upper Torso.13

Maintain the cross-legged sitting posture bringing both forearms (lag ngar)

parallel (gshibs) and the two palms facing (bsten) to the ground. Extend them out

(phar) in front and draw (bkug) them inwards (tshur) touching the chest with the

back bottom of the hand (lag mgo).14 After doing this seven times, shake the entire

body and, simultaneously send out ('don) the sound ha three times consecutively

(thebs gsum).

11 Ibid, 324.4 - 325.1.


12 In line 324.5 I am reading gyis for gi (after mthe bong).
13 Ibid, 325.1 - 325.3.

14 Literally lag mgo means head of the hand, referring to the back of the wrist.
228

5. Purification of the Lower Body.ls

Sit with both legs extended and, with both hands together, sweep

downwards rubbing from the top of the body and stir the four limbs I6 extending

seven times. Afterwards exhale sounding ha and phat, applying ('gres) this to all.

Benefits (yon tan)Y

Regarding the benefits of the five foundational magical movements,

Quintessential Instructions states:

[Their performance] baiances I8 the channels and vital breath


currents, clearing the interior of the channels. 19 All four 20 elements
are in balance, the points of the body (phung po) functioning well. 21
Awareness (rig pa) is lucid (dwangs) and the special or subtler 22 vital
breath currents open up (phyed). These foundational magical
movements are ascribed to the state of mind (dgongs pa) of Pongyal
Tsenpo (Dpon rgyal btsan po, "Sovereign King of Scholars").23

15 Commentary, 325.3 - 325.5.


16 Here the word is gzugs, usually rendered as 'form', but in this context it means the limbs.

17 Commentary 325.5 - 326.2. Benefits works better in English, although usually benefits is used

more for phan yon and qualities for yon tan, denoting good qualities.
18 Commentary reads snyoms ("equally") while Quintessential Instructions reads bsnyam ("even"),

and Ponlob says that Commentary is correct and that Quintessential Instructions has probably a
'carvo' (not his word), typing or carving mistake.
19 I'm reading sbubs here as in Quintessential Instructions 633.3 instead of Commentary's sbu bas,

which again I believe it is a carving mistake.


20 Commentary 326.1; Quintessential Instructions does not mention four (bzhi) but just" elements."

21 Ponlob says that nad du tshud is a phrase meaning that all functions well or runs smoothly
(Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston 2003).
22 Although the Tibetan word here is bye drag, usually translated as "special" or "particular,"
Ponlob explains that here it refers to the minor or subtler channels that branch out from the root
and the branch channels.
22 Quintessential Instructions 633.2-3.This line seems to apply to the following set in QUintessential
Instructions 633.3. In other words, it seems it mentions Pongyal Tsenpo not for the foundational
magical movements but for the first set of the root magical movements. In Commentary however,
Shardza makes it clear that Pongyal Tsenpo designed or compiled both of these sets, mentioning
him at the end of each set.
229

Root Cycle (326)24

[Root Magical Movement Setf5

The six root magical movements are: 26 Striking (brdeg) the Athlete's (gyad)

hammer [to overcome] anger; the Skylight of Primordial Wisdom [that

overcomes] Mental Fogginess (gti mug); Rolling (sgril) the Four (upper) Energetic

Centers27 [to overcome] Pride; Loosening28 the Comer (zur) Knot (rgya mdud) [to

overcome] Desire29; Waving Upward (gyen sprugs) the Silk Tassel (tar Ice) [to

overcome] Jealousy; and the Stance (stabs) of a Tigress' Leap [to overcome]

Drowsiness (bying) and Agitation (rgod).30

6. Striking the Athlete's Hammer [to Overcome] Anger. 31

Wrapping (khud du) the two hands around the nape of the neck (ltag), hold

('khyud) by interlacing (bsnol) the fingers. Having planted (btsug) both knees on

the ground, cross (bsnol) the two ankles (rkan pa'i bol tshig) behind oneself (rgyab

24 Commentary 326.2 - 333.2; Quintessential Instructions, 633.3 - 637.4.


25 Commentary 326.4 - 329.3, Quintessential instructions 633.3- 635.1. Commentary maintains a

continuous enumeration, and so the next magical movement is number six. However, following
Quintessential Instructions, and for simplicity's sake, I will number the magical movements set by
set, but at the beginning of each new set will also note the numbers of the magical movements
according to Commentary in order to maintain its sense of continuity.
26 It could be interesting to use the stabs at the end of the name, which is also related to thabs as
method, distributing it (i.e., these are the ways or methods of such magical movement). However,
when explained individually later (pp. 326-329), stabs appears only in the last exercise, which I
believe means that we should understand it as referring only to that exercise.
27 Probably relates to crown, heart, navel, and secret centers. Yes, says Ponlob.

28 I am reading dgrol for dkrol. The text reads dkrol, which means "playing," as in an instrument,

but here dgrol, as in freeing or loosening a knot, seems more appropriate.


29 Chags means trapped by or entrapment. That is why sometimes it is translated as attachment. I
think trapped by desire gives a good sense of it.
30 Commentary 326.2 - 326.4; Quintessential Instructions, 633.3 - 633.4.
31 Commentary 326.4 - 327.1. Commentary maintains a continuous enumeration, and so this magical

movement is number six.


230

tu). Load (bkal) all weight (ljid rnarn) on the knees and straighten (bsrang) up

from the waist (rkad pa); bend (dgyed) the neck (rnjing pa) backward and drawing

it in (bkug pa) forward (nang du), and with both elbows (gru rno) touch both knees.

Perform in this way ('dra)32 seven times.

7. The Skylight of Primordial Wisdom that Overcomes Mental Fogginess. 33

Assume the cross-legged posture. Place (sbyar) the four fingers of each

hand on the stomach, clasping the right and left hip bones (dpyi rngo) with the

two thumbs. The inner cavity (khug tu) of the (bent) elbows (gru rno) forms a tight

(dong pa) 3-sided skylight by placing the elbows on top of right and left knees.

Then roll backward, until the crown (sbyi bo) is on the ground,34 and roll forward

until the forehead (dbrel) is on the ground. Repeat seven times.

8. Rolling the Four [Limbs like] Wheels, to Overcome Pride. 35

Assume in the bodhisattva cross-legged posture (serns dpa'i skyil krung)36

and press the forepart of both feet (rkang rngo) beneath the right and left thighs

32 Notice that here 'dra is used while previously we had Itar, both having a very close meaning.
33 Ponlob remarks that Tibetan windows are usually 3-sided, without a glass, and generally in the
ceiling as a skylight.
34 The word gtsug, usually translated as 'planting' or 'placing' here has the sense of bringing that

part of the body to the ground, with effort or force. Therefore, since here it is not that the head is
planted and stays on the ground, you move trying to reach it, I am rendering it as "until" it is on
the ground.
35 Commentary, 327.4 - 328.1. There are two possible ways of understanding this title. One is that
the four wheels refer to the crown, the heart, the navel, and the secret centers, and the other is
that the limbs are rotating like wheels. In the last visit Ponlob leaned more to this explanation
(Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, August 2003 and April 2005).
36 Here Commentary (327.4) specifically mentions Bodhisattva posture but Quintessential

Instructions (634.4) just says skyil krung.


231

(brla). The fingers (chang pa)37 of both hands grab the right and left toes, and one

rolls backwards (phyi ru), until [or toward] the nape of the neck is on the ground.

Rolling forward (nang du), plant the knees, bent (khug) at their joint (sgyid),

straightening (bsrang) through being upright (shad)38 from the waist (rkad pa). Roll

backwards and roll forwards in this way (de ltar), repeating seven times.

9. Loosening39 the Corner Knot to Overcome Attachment. 40

Assume the bodhisattva cross-legged posture and extend both elbows.

With both thumbs press under right and left armpits; the tips of the four fingers--

of each hand--pointing (sprad) at the heart. Reach (thug pa) the right elbow to the

left knee and reach the left (elbow) to the right (knee). That is (ste), twist (gcus) to

the right and twist (bCUS)41 to the left seven times (to each side, alternating).

10. Skyward Waving the Silk Tassel to Overcome Jealousy.42

Plant (gtsug)43 both the left sole of the foot and left palm of the hand, and

face the chest (brang),44 to the ground. Extend both the right leg and arm, waving

37 I am taking chang pa to mean the group of fingers closing, similar to the manner it is referred
toin the chang bu offering ritual to dispel negativities--especially done at the end of the year--,
where it refers to the five fingers leaving their impression in the dough (made of rtsam pa).
38 It seems that there is a play of words here with shad as straightening or aligning and as the

straight stroke of for example the A.


39 I am reading dgrol for dkrol. Both texts reads dkrol, which means 'playing,' as in an instrument,

but here dgrol as in freeing or loosening a knot seems more appropriate.


40 Commentary 328.1 - 4.
41 I think that bcus here should be read as gcus, in the same manner it is written a few words

before. It means that one twists to one side and then the other alternating. Although bcus also has
the meaning of twisting.
42 Commentary 328.4 - 329.1.

43 The text reads gtsug, but I believe that is btsug, as we find it earlier and also in the sentence

following this one.


232

them skywards seven times. Also then plant (btsug) both the right foot and hand

on the ground extending the two left (Le., arm and leg), waving them skywards

seven times.

11. The Stance of a Tigress' Leap to Overcome Drowsiness and Agitation. 45

Bring (drangs) the two hands from the outside of the knee-joints to their

inside, seize ('jus) the two ears and bend (bkug) the head. With both soles of the

feet 46 planted on the ground, jump forward seven times and then also jump

backwards seven times in the same manner (!tar). Apply the shaking and stirring,

vocalizing the sounds ha and phat, in all [the magical movements explained

above].

These five root magical movements are the exalted perspective (dgongs) of

Pongyal Tsenpo.47

Benefits. 48

The benefits of these five, condensing them here from those in

Quintessential Instructions, are: the door to the channel of the five poisons closes

and the door to the channel of primordial wisdom opens ('byed). The five

44 Commentary (328.4) actually reads brangng, which is certainly a typo. The meaning of brang is
chest, so, looking at how the posture is performed, I am assuming that it means the chest also
facing to the ground. Quintessential instructions (634.6) does not mention the chest.
45 Commentary, 329.1 - 3.
46 It reads rkang thil, but I think it should be rkang mthil.

47 Commentary 329.3. Here Shardza is referring to the first five movements of this cycle, which
have specific correlations, and was shown in chapter 3 and in the chart in appendix III. Thus, he
will describe the benefits of the first five together and then the benefit of the Stance of a Tigress'
Leap magical movement.
233

aggregates are purified in their place (gnas su dag) and the celestial sphere (dkyil

'khar, mandala) of the five Buddha dimensions (sku) is completed (rdzogs). The

five elements are mastered (dbang du 'dus) and the five essentia149 lights dawn

('char).

Regarding the Stance of a Tigress' Leap [to overcome] Drowsiness and

Agitation, the force (shugs) of the powerful (stabs) vital breath currentsSO is

completed (rdzags), purifying drowsiness and agitation in its own place. The vital

breath currents and the mind enter (tshud) the central channel from below (mar)

freeing/liberating (gral) the moving ('gyu byed) 51 conceptual formations (rtag

tshags).52

[Root Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles] (330)

The six root magical movements that clear away obstacles are: Duck

Drinking Water, Wild Yak (drang rna) Butting Sideways, Female Donkey in the

[reclining] to Sleep Stance, Holding ('dzin) the Breath [like] a Sparrow-Hawk,

Rolling Up the Limits of the Four Continents and Extending the Limits of the

Four Continents. 53

48 Commentary 329.3 - 5.
49 I'm reading dangs ma for dang ma, supported also by Quintessential Instructions (p. 635.1-636.2).
50 Commentary uses the better known srog rlung.

51 Ponlop Thinley Nyima corrected it as 'gyu byed, (Houston, June 20, 2001). Quintessential

Instructions supports it too (p. 636.2).


52 Quintessential Instructions 636.1- 2.
53 Commentary, 330.1 - 333.2, Shardza adds the last movement which is not in Quintessential

Instruction (636.2 - 637.4).


234

12. Duck Drinking Water. 54

Straighten (bsrang) the [standing] body and grasp the waist with the

fingers-group (chang pa) [of both hands], the two thumbs pointing forward.

Through stooping forward, reach (reg pa) the crown towards the ground and

[then] bend the head backwards at the nape by (sa) standing up straight (awaken

straightening like a shad [shad kyis langs D. In that way bend backwards and stoop

forwards seven times. 55 Shake and stir, and apply the ha phat.

13. Wild Yak Butting Sideways.56

Stand up and having pointed the fingers to the front, hold at the waist.

Lean (bkal) the torso, the shoulder (dpung) and head on to the right knee, and

performs the butting style with the head from the right side, crossing the leg

with a jumping stance and twisting (dkyus) [the torso], and performing similarly

to the left. Alternate (res mas) twisting and jumping seven times.

14. Female Donkey [reclining] to Sleep.57

Bring your body to the upright posture (lus po langs), fingers pointing

forward, holding at the waist. Turn with the torso merely touching the left knee

with the right elbow, and [then] merely touching the right [knee] with the left

54 Commentary, 330.3 - 5.
55 I'm taking rgur reg mo to be an abbreviation of the rgur nas spyil bos sa la reg pa mentioned the
line above.
56 Commentary, 330.5 - 331.2.1n line 330.5 I am reading zur instead of thuri confirmed by the
spelling earlier in 330.2 as well as Quintessential Instructions, p. 636.2.
57 Commentary, 331.2 - 4.
235

[elbow]. Change the legs evenly [each time], crossing the right and left, twisting

(dkyus) the upper and lower [i.e., torso and legs] and repeat seven times.

15. The Sparrow-Hawk Soaring in the Wind. 58

Stand (langs) with both feet together, hold the finger-grouping at the

waist, pointing the thumb forward. Lift (btegs) the soles 59 of the feet just slightly

(cung tsam) and turn 60 the head and torso to the right, to the left and to the back,

respectively, jumping upwards ('phag pa) to the sky each time. Perform likewise

seven times.

16. Rolling Up the Limits of the Four Continents. 61

Rise up (langs) and merely touch with the right leg above the left knee,

and similarly with the left [above the right]. Circle by crossing (bsnal mar bsgril)

the right and left arms into the [opposite] armpits, performing seven times.

17. Extending the Limits of the Four Continents. 62

Assume the adamantine (rda rje) cross-legged posture and pressing the

thumbs with the ring finger (srin lag) of both hands [into a fist] plant the wrists

on the ground. Having loaded all [one's] weight (ljid rnam) on the hands, raise up

(yar la btegs) the body and descend ('beb) rotating. Perform seven times.

58 Commentary, 331.4 - 332.l.


59 In the oral instructions I received in Tritan Norbutse monastery (January 1994) as well as in
New Mexico (July 1996) and Nepal (June 1995) it was shown as if the heels were the ones raised
or lifted.
60 Here reads brgyur, which is probably a typo or 'carvo' for bsgyur that is also what is used in the
next line. Ponlob also mentioned that sometimes, as one turns to the right and the left, one also
shakes the torso slightly, with a sense of soaring (Houston, October 2002).
61 Commentary, 332.1-2.
236

Benefits. 63

The benefits of these, according to the Quintessential Instructions, are:

The Duck [drinking water movement] liberates from the four


collections (bsdus)64 of diseases and opens the doorway (sgo) of the
channel of sky; the Wild Yak [butting movementr liberates from
the diseases of phlegm (bad kan)66 and opens the doorway of the
channel of earth; the Female Donkey [lying down to sleep
movement] liberates from diseases of bile (mkhris pa)67 and opens
the doorway of the channel of air; the Sparrow-Hawk [upholding
the wind movement] liberates from diseases of heat and opens the
doorway of the channel of fire 68; and the Four continents [magical
movement(s)] liberate from diseases of cold and open the doorway
of the channel of water. 69
As for the common or general [benefits, these magical movements]
will cause ('gyur) one to posses the power of speed-walking (bang
mgyogs), ignite the warmth [of one's body] (drod 'ba) and reverse the
aging process/life span (tshe ring log po)?O Stated by Togme Shigpo
(Rtog med zhig po, "Destroyer beyond conceptuality").71

62Commentary, 332.2 - 4.
63 Commentary, 332.4 - 333.2.
64 Quintessential Instructions reads 'dus.
65 Commentary reads 'brang mo (332.5) but is certainly a typo, and should be 'brong mo (as in 330.2,

and 330.5).
66 Quintessential Instructions (637.2) reads here tshad pa'i nad las grol, meaning "liberates or frees

from the diseases of heat," which includes but is not limited to fever.
67 Quintessential Instructions says it liberates from phlegm and bile (637.2)
68 Me mi rtsa is a typo and should be me'i rtsa as in Quintessential Instructions 637.2.
69 He quotes from Quintessential Instructions 637.1 - 637.4. I believe that Shardza here applies the
benefits of the Four Continents to both movements (i.e., the last two of this set).
70 Quintessential Instructions (637.4) reads tshe 10 log 'gyur thub par, "power over the reversing of
one's years of one's life."
71 Quintessential Instructions 637.3 - 4, Commentary, 333.2.
237

Branch Cycle (333) 72

The branch magical movement [cycle] is composed by the five root or

main branch magical movements and the five movements that clear away

obstacles?3

[Main Branches SetY4

The five main branch magical movements are: the Natural Descent (rang

'beb) of the Four Elements, the Peacock Drinking Water/5 Collecting the Four

Stalks (sdong po); Rolling (bsgril) the Four Upper and Lower [limbs] and Striking

(rdeg) the Four Knots (rgya mdud).

18. Natural Descent of the Four Elements. 76

Sit in the cross-legged position, with both palms pressing down upon the

thighs, and straighten the body and forearms. Shake the head and upper body

forward and lean back up, performing that seven times.

19. Peacock Drinking Water?7

Align the both legs [extended forward together]. Join (snol) the forearms

at the back, thumbs pressing the ring fingers. Bend the body forward, the

forehead merely touching in between the knees, and raising the head, look

72 Commentary, 333.2, Quintessential Instructions 637.4.


73 Quintessential Instructions begins by calling them root and branches (637.4) and later (638.5) calls
them gag sel, and probably that's why in Commentary the latter classification is used.
74 Commentary, 333.2 - 335.5, Quintessential Instructions 637.4 - 638.5.

75 Quintessential Instructions as 'chung instead of 'thung in Commentary, which is correct. In fact


Quintessential Instructions itself has it in the following line as 'thung (637.5).
76
334.1
77 Commentary, 333.5 - 334.2.
238

alternating to the right over the shoulder and left [over the shoulder]. And

looking skywards each time, perform alternating these three [i.e., right, left and

skyward]. Perform in this way seven times.

20. Collecting the Four Stalks. 78

From a seated position ('dug), having grabbed the big toes with the two

hands, place the backbone on the ground, extending skywards the four, arms

and legs, and performing the mode of radiating. Perform in this way seven

21. Rolling the Four Upper and Lower [limbs].80

Hold the upper right and left feet with the two set of fingers, and rolling

backward, plant the top of the feet on the ground. Then, rolling forward, plant

the forehead on the ground. Similarly, repeat seven times.

22. Striking the Four KnotS. 81

Perform82 the adamantine cross-legged posture and, bringing the right

and left hand in between the cove (khug) of the knees, hold [the forelegs] with

both hands from under the calf (byin pa). Perform the rotating descent ('beb bskor)

seven times. Shaking vigorously (sbrugs) the four forms (gsugs, i.e., limbs) and

reciting the sounds ha phat are required (dgos) for all [movements].

78 Commentary, 334.2 - 4.
79 Quintessential Instructions reads also "perform rolling backward and rolling forward" (638.2).

80 Commentary, 334.4 - 5.
81 Commentary, 334.5 - 335.2.

82 In 335.1 I'm reading bya for phya.


239

Benefits

As for these benefits, Quintessential Instructions states:

[One] liberates from diseases of the four elements [allowing] the vital
breath currents together with the mind to enter the essential points (gnad
du tshud).S3 Appearances magically liberate and adherence to mistaken
appearances is reversed (zlog). The strength of the body extends and one
gains natural mastery over the four elements. External and internal
obstacles are cleared allowing the channels and the vital breath currents to
function well. The strengths of body oil (snum),84 its heat and excellent
luminosity, extend. 8s

[Branch Magical Movement Set that Clears Away Obstacles] (335).86

The five [branch magical movements] that clear away obstacles are: the

Great Garuda Flapping (rdeb) its Wings, Peacock Stirring Water, Collecting ('dus)

the Four [limbs] Clearing Away the Limitations, the One-Sided Gallop of the

Antelope (e na) and the One-Sided Pulse (sprugs)87 of the Sha ri Deer. 8s

23. Great Garuda Flapping its Wings. 89

Standing (langs) upright, extend the right arm skyward and

simultaneously touch the buttocks ('phongs zhabs) with the back of the right foot's

83 Quintessential Instructions 638.3 has chud, which I believe is lack of ink or carving error.
84 I am following Quintessential Instructions 638.4, instead of Commentary's spelling as bsnum,
which is a typo as far as I can tell.
8S Commentary, 335.2 - 5, Quintessential Instructions 638.3 - 6.
86 Commentary 335.5- 338.3, Quintessential Instructions 638.5 - 639.4.

87 In this case, I am rendering sprug as "pulse" instead of "stirring" in order to describe better the

movement.
88 It is not too clear the exact word or its origins but it seems to describe a kind of deer.

Quintessential Instructions has two different spellings for it, sha na'i (638.5) and sha ra na, and
probably following the latter Commentary has sha ra or sha ra'i.
89 Commentary 336.1 - 3.
240

heel. Directing (thad) the left arm to the hip (dpyi), extend downwardly. In this

manner, perform alternating right and left, repeating seven times [each].

24. Peacock Shaking the Water. 90

In the standing [posture], having both arms [extended] parallel in front,

palms facing to the ground, simultaneously shake both hands, from the wrists,

one time to [each of] the three: front, right and left. Repeat seven times.

25. Collecting the Four [limbs] Clearing Away Limitations.91

Having the soles of both feet together, sit ('dug)92 and hold the top of the

feet (rkang mgo) with both hands. Then jump forward seven times and jump

backward seven times.

26. One-Sided Gallop of the Antelope. 93

Hold the top of the left foot with the left hand, and place the sole of that

foot in the right leg cavity or below intestine (rgyu zhabs). Hop forward on the

90 Commentary 336.3 - 5.
91 Ibid, 336.5 - 337.l.
92 There are different ways to understand the sitting here. When I was originally introduced to

this magical movement it was described as the buttocks not touching the ground. However, later
I have also seen it where it is sitting on the ground. The texts do not bring clarity here, since as we
see from above Commentary just says "sit" or "stay" and Quintessential Instructions (639.1) explains
"in the mode of the cross-legged posture" (skyil krung tshul). Obviously jumping without having
the buttocks touch the ground is more difficult (and actually tougher on the ankles too), but
having them touch has the advantage of that falling ('be b) at each step helping grounding and
exerting the secret chakra. Thus, at this point both seem to be viable options. In 1993, when I saw
this practice for the first time, in Tritan Norbutse, the monk demonstrating it lifted his buttocks
off the ground while maintaining the posture of holding the toes of both feet with both hands.
However, in 1995 Yundrung Gyaltsen at Tritan Norbutse and then Ponlob Thinley Nyima in
Menri (2003) demonstrated it as lifting it only with every jump. In 1996 the then Khenpo of Tritan
Norbutse and under whose guidance I was shown originally the magical movements there in
1993, came to the US and said that in this movement either of the alternatives was correct (oral
teachings, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ligmincha Summer Retreat, 1996).
241

right foot while simultaneously swatting (sbrugs) the right hand towards (thad

nas) the hip. In this manner, take seven small hops forward. Having turned

around take another seven small hops to the back side. Perform again shifting

(brje) in a similar way also with the left. 94

27. The One-Sided Pulse of the Sha ri Deer. 95

Standing upright with the sole of the right foot pressing (mnan) [against]

the bare nook (ther khug) [of the left leg], bring both arms from the side (zur nas)

in a downwards clearing [movement]. Racing (going forward) (sdun)96 seven

times, bend (bkug) the torso, shoulder and head with each small hop of the left

leg, meeting (sprad) three times [for each step] in the mode of bowing down

(rgur) the torso. Having turned around (to the backside) make seven small hops.

Shifting [sides/feet], apply similarly with the left. Perform [this whole pattern]

with one drawing (khu) of the breath.

Benefits97

As for the benefits of these, from the former (snga rna, i.e., Quintessential

Instructions) :

The obstacles from the four elements are liberated and the door to the
channel of the elements is opened. The elements are balanced and [thus]
the collection of the four diseases is harmless (mi tshugS).98

93 Commentary 337.1- 3.
94 In this movement there are 28 hops altogether, 14 on the right leg (7 hops to the front and seven
to the back) and another 14 on the left leg.
95 Commentary 337.4 - 338.1.
96 It might be that instead of sdun it is sngun, which is an archaic form of mdun, meaning forward.

97 Commentary, 338.1 - 3.
242

These ten branch magical movements [i.e. five root and five branches] are

[in accordance with] the intent (dgongs) of Lhundrub Muthur (Lhun grub Mu

thur,99 "Spontaneously perfected [one], holder of the Mu lineage).100

Special Magical Movement Cycle. (338).101


The special magical movement [cycle] is composed by [the set of

movements] that clear away the individual obstacles of the head, the body and

the limbs and [the set of movements] that clear away common obstacles. 102

There are five [magical movements] that clear away the [individual]

obstacles of the head, torso, arms, lower body and legs.

[Special magical movement set that clears away individual obstacles]. 103

28. Clearing Away [obstacles] From the Head: Rotating (ril) and Nodding (lcog)
the Head.104
In the cross-legged posture, raise (bsgrengs) both hands on top of the

thighs (brla). Rotate (bskor) the head to right and left seven times each, and then

bend to the front and back seven times. lOS

98 In Quintessential Instructions, 639.4 - 5 there are some minor differences from the way Shardza
quotes it.
99 I am reading 'thur instead of thur both in Commentary, 338.2 and in Quintessential Instructions

639.4.
100 Commentary, 338.2 - 3. Mu is one of the five Bbnpo family lineages.
101 Commentary 338.3 - 346.2, Quintessential Instructions 639.4 - 643.1.
102 Commentary 338.3.

103 Commentary 338.4 - 340.3, Quintessential Instructions 639.4 - 640.4. Instead of "individual,"

Quintessential Instructions calls this set "the gradual clearing of obstacles" (gags sel rim pa).
104 Ibid, 338.4 - 5.

105 Dkyed here seems to be a typo and understood either as bkyed, which means bent backwards

and so together with bkug pairs with mdun rgyab meaning "front and back," meaning together
"bending to the front and to the back." Tibetologist Greg Hillis points out that it could be read as
243

29. Swinging (ling) the Binding Chains (sgrog ehings) of the Torso. I06

Staying put ('dug) with both arms crossed at (khar) the heart, hold the

shoulders ('phrag)I07 to the right and left [sides] of the head. Having planted both

knees on the ground, twist (geus) the torso and rotate seven times to the right and

seven to the left.

30. Grasping [like] the Raven's Claws, [clearing away the obstacles of] the
Arms. IOB
Sit in the bodhisattva posture, bristle (gzings) the palms (sbar rno) of both

hands, and aiternating109 between the right and left, stretch out and draw in

(brkyang brkurn) releasing [and bringing back] the fingers; performing seven

times.

31. Adamantine Self-Rotation of the Stomach (pho ba).110

Establish (bea') in the bodhisattva position and crossing the right and left

elbows hold [the stomach] with the group of fingers of each hand. Having

folded (rtsegs) the forearms, embrace (bsdorn) the waist and rotate the stomach

seven times to the right and seven times to the left.

dgyed and if so it might be a condensed version of mdun tu bkug dang rgyab tu dgyed, a typical way
for Tibetan language to say "bend to the front and back." Quintessential Instructions (6395) does
not describe it in such a detail and so there is no word or phrase to compare it in its "original
version."
106 Commentary 339.1- 2.
107 I am rendering from sku 'phrag meaning shoulder in honorific language.

108 Commentary 339.2 - 3. Commentary does not specify in the title here that this movement clears

away the obstacles of the arm, just mentions arm, but it is clear form the above context plus it is
mentioned in this way in Quintessential Instructions (639.6). Also, the latter uses bya rog for crow
or raven, while Commentary uses its synonym pho rog.
109 I'm reading res mos instead of reg mos (which I believe it is a typo).

110 Quintessential Instructions (639.6 - 640.1) has it as both waist (rked pa) and stomach.
244

32. Camel's (rnga mong) Fighting Stance ('dor stabs) [that clears away the obstacles

of the] Legs [and whole body].111

Sitting squatting (tsog pur), raise the forearms between the legs, and grasp

the big toes with both hands. Rolling backwards, plant the legs and head to the

ground, [then] shake and extend with the legs and arms straight (like a shad).

Perform in this manner seven times. Shake the four forms [i.e., limbs] and

[sound] ha and phat. Accompany ('gro, literally "go") with all other [movements].

Benefits. 112
As for the benefits of these, [in accordance with] the intent of Orgom

Kundul ('Or sgom kun 'dul, "Meditator of Or [clan/family] Tamer of All

[obstructions]"), all the cooperative conditions (rkyen) of temperature (heat and

cold), wind, bile, and demons become clear as well as the diseases of each of the

branches [i.e. limbs/parts of the body] become clear.ll3

[Special magical movement set that clears away common obstacles] (340).114

The [magical movements] that clear away common obstacles are: Stirring

the Depths of the Ocean, Freeing the Nine Knots (rgya mdud), Binding/Training

111 Commentary, 339.5 - 340.2. Quintessential Instructions does not mention the legs in the title of
this movement, probably meaning that it is to purify the whole body, which I believe it does too,
since the whole body is clearly engaged in its performance.
112 Commentary, 340.2 - 3.
113 Quintessential Instructions (640.3 - 4) has a more extensive set of benefits that claims to be red

instructions from oral wisdom.


114 Commentary 340.3 - 346.2, Quintessential Instructions 640.5 - 643.1.
245

('dul) and Freeing (bkrol) the Channels, Chinese Woman Weaving Silk (dar thag),

First, Second and Third [parts] and the Bouncing Jewel (nor bu 'phar len).115

33.5tirring the Depths of the Ocean.l16

Establish in the bodhisattva posture, showing the forearms outwardly (lag

ngar phyir). Hold from under the claves (rkang ngar) with the group of fingers of

both hands and rotate seven times to the right and seven times to the left. Then,

by bringing the calves and waist upright, raise up the entire body and shake as

many times as possible (ci mang bya).

34. Freeing the Nine KnotS.ll7

Sitting with both legs slightly (tsam) semi-extended (phyed brgyad)/18 tap

(brdeg) with both palms alternating, seven times each: the crown of the head, the

forehead, the base of the nape (ltag khung), the top of the right and left shoulders,

the right and left hip bone (dpyi mig), above the right and left knees. Tap the

ground with the heels (rkang pa'i rting), and then plant the palms of both hands

on the ground, elevating ('phang) three times the lower part of the body (ro

115 Commentary 340.3 - 4.


116 Commentary 340.5 - 341.2. It is unclear why Commentary (341.1) uses "then" (de nas) to continue
the description that seems to be part of the rotation explained. In fact, neither Quintessential
Instructions nor Experiential Transmission mention the de nas. Experiential Transmission (262.1 - 4)
has a clearer description of this part of this magical movement. However, its last line is puzzling,
saying "repeat seven, nine, ten, three or as many times as possible, whatever you can do (ci thub
bya)" (Experiential Transmission, 262.4). This phrase does not appear in Quintessential Instructions,
making it harder to understand Drugyalwa's intention in adding it there.
117 Commentary, 341.2 - 5.

118 Quintessential Instructions (640.6) uses bcung tsam brkyang, while Commentary has phyed brkyang

tsam, lit. "slightly half-extended."


246

smad)119 to the sky and fall (brdab) with the soles of the feet to the ground.

Following that, stand upright striking (rgyab) three times the great descent ('beb

chen). Annotation (mchan): in the air (bar snang "from earth to stars") assume the bodhisattva

cross-legged posture and sit ('dug pa) three [times]. Shake, stir, and so forth, likewise [as

in all magical movements].

35. Training and Freeing the Channels. 120

Stand, and grab the waist with both hands directing the thumbs forward

(inwards). Visualize (gsal gdab, literally, "confirm clearly") the three channels, six

wheels ('khar 10), and the essential spheres (thig Ie) of method and wisdom as

follows: at the principal wheel of the crown an A, at the throat an Om, at the

heart a Hung, at the wheel of the solesl2l of the feet a Yam, at the secret [wheel] a

Ram, and at the navel a Kham. Then, heating (dras) the channel(s) and the

elements (khams), by the fire of the inner heat (gtum ma), the three [syllables] A,

Om, and Hung melt into light. Having transformed into three essential spheres,

white, red, and azure (mthing) [respectively], they dissolve (thim) in the Yam at

the soles of the feet. Spreading (g.yas) the vital breath from the Yam, blazes ('bar)

the fire from the Ram, [making] the nectar of the Kham fall (babs). From that,

having arisen the aspects (rnam) of vital breath current, fire, and golden light,

imagine (bsam) that all the [karmic] predispositions and obstacles of the three

119 Ro smad is synonym to Ius kyi smad (see Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo, Mi rigs dpe skun khang,
1993, p. 2724).
120 Commentary, 342.1 - 343.1.
247

times are a pure (dag) burnt offering (sreg gtor). Jump upwards (rnam mchongs),

and while striking (brdeg) the buttocks with both heels, gallop (rgyug) facing

forward seven times, then turn and perform facing to the other side.

These three magical movements were spoken by Yangton Chenpo (Yang

ston chen po, "Great Teacher of Yang") to his son Bum Je 'ad ('Bum rJe 'Od

"Luminous Lord of the Scriptures").122

Benefits. 123
[One is] liberated from all kinds of disease (nas rigs kun) as well as from all

cooperative conditions (rkyen) [due to imbalance of] the elements, and all

external and internal obstacles. All flaws (skyon) of the channels, vital-breath and

essential spheres are cleared away; [and] the five vital breaths penetrate (tshud)

the 5 points (gnad). [One] achieves the self/natural power of speed-walking (bag

mgyogs), of the ignition of the warmth of bliss and of [control] over the four

elements. The erratic collection of thoughts purify (sangs) into the natural abode

(rang sar) and the non-conceptual experiences of bliss and clarity dawns. 124

36. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk, Part One.125

121 I'm reading mthil for mthing taking the latter as a typo (or a "carvo").
122 Commentary, 343.1 - 2. Yang is an abbreviation for Ya ngal (see S. Karmay, The Little Luminous
Boy, p. 29).
123 Commentary, 343.2 - 4.

124 Although Commentary does not attribute these benefits explicitly to Quintessential Instructions,

as in previous sets, they clearly come from it (see Quintessential Instructions, 641.1- 3).
125 Commentary, 343.4 - 344.1. The next three magical movements of this set are called Chinese

woman weaving silk parts I, 2, & 3 respectively. And although each one is a distinct magical
movement, they are related. In fact Quintessential Instructions (and Experiential Transmission
following it) name them as three gradual parts (rim pa gsum). See Quintessential Instructions 641.6
and Experiential Transmission, 262.10.
248

Sitting down, place both legs in front. With the right hand grab the right

ankle (bol tshigs) [and] drawing the left hand out from the inside of the knee-

creek (sgyid khug) of the left leg, grab the second toe.126 Having done so, rotate

[the leg] seven times inward and seven times outward. Likewise, understand

that the right and the left should be switched (brje).

37. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk, Part TWO.127

Lie down (bsnyal) with the right side of the head and body on the ground.

Close the right nostril (sna khung) with the forefinger (srin mdzub)128 of the right

hand and bind (sdom) the carotid artery ('phar rtsa) with the thumb. Drawing the

left arm inside the left knee-creek, grab the second toe with both the thumb and

forefinger. Rotate [the leg] seven times outward and seven times inward.

Likewise repeat switching also to the left.

38. Chinese Woman Weaving Silk, Part Three. 129

Sitting in a crouching position (tsog pu), having both arms between the

legs, stretch them and grab the big toes of both feet. l30 Planting the external part

of the buttocks on the ground, with the legs and arms slightly lifted, pound

126 In Tibetan fingers are both of hands and feet. Here mdzub mo refers to the 'forefinger' of the
toes, in other words. The "index" toe, next to the thumb.
127 Commentary, 344.1- 3.

128 In the previous magical movement it was described as just mdzub (Commentary, 344.5). I am not
totally sure if it is still the index or is it another finger. His Holiness Lungtok Tenpa Nyima
explained it to me as with the 'ring' finger (New Mexico, 1997 and Menri monastery, 2002).
129 Commentary, 344.3 - 5.
249

lightly (rgyob)131 alternating with both heels toward the hips repeating seven

times with each [heel]. Shake and stir the four limbs, and so forth, same [as

before].

Benefits. 132

[From Quintessential Instructions:p33

The first [part of the Chinese Woman Weaving Silk magical movement]
opens the door of the left channel, and insight (shes rab) increases ('phel);
the female (mo) [left] vital-breath penetrates the vital points and discursive
thoughts ('phro rgod) are pacified. l34

The second [part] closes ('gag) the door of the right channel and cuts off
the continuity of the path of afflictions (nyon mongs).135 [One] obtains
natural power over the harsh vital breath (rtsub rlung) and purifies torpor
and dullness (bying rmugs).

The third [part] opens the door of the central channel and masters
('byongs) the neutral vital breath (ma ning rlung). [One] obtains natural
power over appearances and mind (snang sems) and non-conceptual
primordial wisdom (ye shes) dawns.

130 I am reading rkang for rkyad here (Commentary 344.4). This is also confirmed in Quintessential
Instruction (642.3) and Experiential Transmission (264.1), both reading rkang pa'i mthe bong.
131 Commentary (344.5) has rgyob meaning "like sound of hitting," while Quintessential Instructions

(642,3) and Experiential Transmission (264.2) have rgyab meaning "to strike." Commentary (344.5)
has tib after the word for hip (dpyi), which I believe is an error, maybe for the word rtsar, which
appears in both Quintessential Instructions and Experiential Transmission, meaning "near." Also the
former (mis) spells dpyi as spyid.
132 Commentary, 345.1- 3.

133 Although there is no direct reference to Quintessential Instructions here, the shes so at the end of

this benefit section (345.3) is a clear marker that it is quote. Also, see Quintessential Instructions
(642.3 - 642.5).
134 Mo rlung is another way of saying 'jam rlung or soft breath (Yongzin Tenzin Namdak,
Charlottesville, VA, October, 2005, Ponlob Thinley Nyima, Houston, TX, April 2005).
Quintessential Instructions (642.3-4) has it as distilled or gathered vital-breath (bsdu rlung) and
Experiential Transmission (264.4) as harsh vital-breath (rtsub rlung).
135 Commentary has chad instead of chod as found both in Quintessential Instructions and Experiential

Transmission, which again could be bad ink transferring of the naro, but in any case the meaning
remains the same.
250

39. Bouncing Jewel. 136

Assume the bodhisattva posture. Having the fingers of [both] hands

interlaced with the two forefingers parallel, [finger] tips (rtse rno) touching, press

and cross the right [thumb] with the left thumb [i.e., left thumb over the right

one]. Then, extend both hands straight and bent them inward, hitting with the

back joints (rgyab tshigs) of the thumbs, the right, left and center of the chest

(brang); and in particular (khyad par) hitting everywhere and simultaneously

vocalizing the phat sound as many times as possible. [Then] stir and shake with

ha phat, etc., that extends to all of the magical movements.137

Concluding Advice (346).138

Thus, afterward [i.e., having done these practices, one] effortlessly (rtsol

rned) self-liberates in an uncontrived (bya rned) manner beyond intellect (blo rned)

and instantly one finds rest (ngal gso )/39 entering into a meditative equipoise.
Colophon (346).140

Due to my disciple's (slob rna) request (bskul), [and] in through (du) the

unmistaken ('phyug rned) oral instruction (shal khrid) of the higher (gong rna) great

136 Commentary, 345.3 - 346.1.


137 The odd way it is written it seems that it might have been dictated, and as for quotes from
QUintessential Instructions, probably done by memory and not necessarily with the Quintessential
Instructions text in front.
138 Commentary, 346.1 - 2. Commentary does not have a benefit specific to this movement.

Quintessential Instructions (642.6) and Experiential Transmission (263.9) have a very brief one "The
benefits are maintaining the heart vital breath current in the chest treasure and liberating from
the impure diseases." However, it has this advise that is absent in both of the other texts.
139 I am reading ngal gso for ngar gso.
251

masters (grub chen), [I, Shardza] set forth (bkod) as clear (gsal) [as possible] the

application of the practices (lag len) of the uncommon path, of the [Zhang Zhung]

Oral Transmission's magical movement,141 I admit (bshags) the contradictions ('gal

gyur) [that I made here] to the skygoers and protectors.

[In a smaller typeface the colophon continues]:142

Amplifying on this, a nephew of the dra [family], Namgyal Dragpa (rNam

rgyal grags pa) and a student of the dra, Tsultrim Gyaltsen (Tshul khrims gyal

mtshan)/43 both having met [and receivedp44 this profound oral instructions, and

with the great intention of preventing the lineage to degenerate or stop, exhorted

[me, Shardza] to write these oral instructions down, and thus [I} the

renunciant/ ascetic Shardza'i Chadrag Tashi Gyaltsen (Shar rda'i Bya bral Bkris

Rgyal mtshan), composed it (bkod) at the Blissful Beautiful Yungdrung mountain

hermitage (G. Yung [drung] Lhun po'i De chen ri khrod).145 May this practice become

140 Commentary, 346.2 - 3.


141 There is an obvious typo here since it reads 'khul 'khor instead of 'khrul 'khor. And of course
italics are mine.
142 Com men tar y, 346.3-6. I am not sure if there is a specific reason for the smaller

typeface-sometimes that is found in colophons-, or very possibly, for lack of space. Yongdzin
Tenzin Namdak corrected many lines of this last part, and stated that there should be better
blockprints of this text available (Charlottesville, VA, October, 2004). I will look into finding a
better copy.
143 Probably this is a typo and it should be spelled rgyal mthsan. Ora here refers to the family

name, and it could also specifically refer to Ratrul Tenzin Wangyal (Ra sprul Bstan 'dzin dbang
rgyal), a famous teacher in that family, probably the uncle of Namgyal Dragpa and teacher of
Tsultrim Gyaltsen (Yongzin Tenzin Namdak, personal communication, Charlottesville, VA,
October 2004). Ponlob remarks that also within that lineage was Raton Kalzang Tenpa Gyaltsen
(Ra ston sKal bzang bstan pa rgyal mtshan), who was one of Shardza's famous students and who
wrote his biography.
144 I'm reading mjal for mjol

145 I am not sure if "Blissful Beautiful" is part of the name of the hermitage or qualifiers to it.
252

a condition whereby the yogis might integrate in their continuum whatever

extraordinary (khyab par can) experiences and realizations generating of the unity

(zung 'jug) mind and vital breath currents. Sarva Mangalam!146

146Both Commentary (346.6) and Quintessential Instructions (643.1) use the Sanskrit, while
Drugyalwa uses the Tibetan equivalent dge'o, "May it be virtuous!" (Experiential Transmission,
264.11).
253

II. Preparatory Breaths Posture. 1

1 Drawing by Katy Chamberlain. I am very grateful to her for drawing it specifically for this project.
254

III. Magical Movement Concluding Posture. 2


Figures 5 and 6.

2 From "Into the Mystic," Yoga Journal, May IJune, 2000, pp. 108 -109.
(Photos by Michael Sexton.)
255

IV. Table of Correlations of Root Magical Movement Set.

Magical Element Poison clears! Aggregate Wisdom dawns! Buddha dimension


Movement dawns! channel liberated accomplishment dawns!seen
channel closes
opens
Striking the Space Anger Consciousness Emptiness Truth (Bon)
Athlete's
Hammer
Skylight of Earth Mental Form Mirror-like Complete (rdzogs)
Primordial fogginess
Wisdom
Rolling the Air Pride Formations Knowing things as Essential (ngo bo nyid)
Four Limbs they are
like Wheels
Loosening Fire Desire/ Feeling Discrimination Manifested (sprul sku)
the Corner attachment
Knot
Skyward Water Jealousy Conceptions Of [knowing] the Truly /fully awakened 1
Waving the varieties (mngon par byang chub)
Silk Tassel

1 When used the classic tripartite division of the Truth, Complete, and Manifested dimensions, the Fully Awakened and the Essential
dimensions are part of the Truth dimension (Ponlob Thinley Nyima, oral commentary, Houston, TX, April, 2005). In his Treasury of
Knowledge, Jamgon Kongtriil says about the last one, it is a "manifold manifestation in accordance with the karma of those to be
256

v. Rolling The Four Limbs Like a Whee1. 3

3From "Into the Mystic," p. 107.


(Photo by Michael Sexton.)
257

VI. Female Donkey Reclining to Sleep.4

4From "Into the Mystic," p. 108.


(Photo by Michael Sexton.)
258

VII. Extending the Limits of the Four Continents. s

5From "Into the Mystic," p. 107.


(Photo by Michael Sexton.)
259

VIII. Correlations of both Root Magical Movement Sets.

Athlete's hammer Overcoming anger Opening the door of


space collectiol", of 1j
diseclS8S

Window of wisdom Overcoming ignorance Opening the door of Dro n~o (h?rnolG yak:) Liberates from tl1&
earth bllttinr.: diseases of pllleqm
(bad iran)

Spinning the four Overcoming pride Opening the door of air Femaie wile! donkey I.iberates fmm the
wheels i~ring cio\'m (Iisem,e;; of bile
(mkhris pal

Loosening the corner Overcoming attachmentOpening the door of fire HawK upholding the Li berates from the
knot wind diseases of heat (ts
ba)
Fluttering the silk tasselOvercoming jealousy Opening the door of Rollinq of the !;. Libel'utes fronl tile
water continents diseases of Gold
(gmlJg IJa)

Stance of a tigress' Overcoming agitation Vital breath and mind Extendinu the limits of Liber<ltes fWIll Ih,o
spring and drowsiness enter the central the ./), continents diseases of cold
channel (grang lYa)
260

IX. Tsakli of the ZZ Oral Transmission masters. 6

Pongyal Tsenpo

Togme Shigpo Lhundrup Muthur

6Copied from Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak's personal set, Tritan Norbutse monastery, Kathmandu,
Nepal. I am very grateful to Yongdzin Rinpoche for allowing me to copy his whole set of the
masters of the Transmission of the Experience (NyG). Togme Shigpo is from the Transmission of
the Word (KG), so he was not among those tsakli. His picture is from Samten Karmay, Little
Luminous Boy.
261

Orgom Kundul

Yangton Sherab Gyaltsen Bumjeo


262

X. Tibetan Text: Shardza's Commentary .

. - '- , '-'-- TI
'-----.--~----

'~=-=--~=--'-1\
"::'

-
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- ,:.:-.,

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II
i:
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tr &.>:
it >--
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~
jf'Ul
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liT) FG\Y':
IT ~'--'uu
i7
('~ e tr
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h>f ~rl
prp ~,~ (! J

PfW
f.-~ :r .r.w ,
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'if''
'

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if
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\: li.- \'Jrll'~~\lf
i! ilL '
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,-
m>
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t( ~
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.\.~~I!!Z ~~~
I I~ , " ~
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til d~w.:~
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I IT 1 ' rtr t' orr ty- !
r::
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I ii.'~i!
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Wu) ~ \

\I ,
Ilr¢~1
:1 I ~ Ifi') - ,
'I , / ' rr I
.,'\!. v, ,
:i fk)~ir it'" I
,; IT \ V"" U" I'
I, ~. ~'-7;r iF)ll
I, [j 6@:"~ I
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i!
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I /L '/
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263

~ 'ij~·~:::;·r~=;.
M
264

,....,
,....,
265

co
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M ,..,,..,o
266
267

M
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268
269

, .
270
271

Appendix IV

I. Cancer Journal article (page numbers will be from publication 2253-2260),


2253

Psychological Adjustment and Sleep Quality in a


Randomized Trial of the Effects of a Tibetan Yoga
Intervention in Patients with Lymphoma

Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D. 1,2 BACKGROUND. Research suggests that stress-reduction programs tailored to the
Carla Warneke, M.P.H? cancer setting help patients cope with the effects of treatment and improve their
Rachel T. Fouladi, Ph.D. 4 quality of life. Yoga, an ancient Eastern science, incorporates stress-reduction
M. Alma Rodriguez, M.D. 5 techniques that include regulated breathing, visual imagery, and meditation as
Alejandro Chaoul-Reich 6 well as various postures. The authors examined the effects of the Tibetan yoga (TY)
practices of Tsa lung and Trul khor, which incorporate controlled breathing and
, Department of Behavioral Science, The University visualization, mindfulness techniques, and low-impact postures in patients with
of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, lymphoma.
Texas. METHODS. Thirty-nine patients with lymphoma who were undergoing treatment or
2Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation who had concluded treatment within the past 12 months were assigned to a TY
Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson group or to a wait-list control group. Patients in the TY group participated in 7
Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. weekly yoga sessions, and patients in the wait-list control group were free to
3 Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas participate in the TY program after the 3-month follow-up assessment.
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. RESULTS. Eighty nine percent ofTYparticipants completed at least 2-3 three yoga
4 Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser Univer- sessions, and 58% completed at least 5 sessions. Patients in the TY group reponed
sity, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. significantly lower sleep disturbance scores during follow-up compared with pa-
tients in the wait-list control group (5.8 vs. 8.1; P < 0.004). This included better
5Department of Lymphoma, The University of Texas
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. subjective sleep quality (P < 0.02), faster sleep latencY' (P < O'(ll) , longer sleep
duration (P < 0.03), and less use of sleep medications (P < 0.02). There were no
6Department of Religion, Rice University, Houston,
significant differences between groups in terms of intrusion or avoidance, state
Texas.
anxiety, depression, or fatigue.
Presented in part at the Sixth World Congress of
Psycho-Oncology, Banff, Alberta, Canada, April CONCLUSIONS. The participation rates suggested that a TY program is feasible for
23-27, 2003. patients with cancer and that such a program significantly improves sleep-related
outcomes. However, there were no significant differences between groups for the
Supported in part by a grant from the Bruce S. other outcomes. Ca1lcer 2004;100:2253-60. © 2004 American Cancer Society.
Gelb Foundation.

The authors thank Beth Notzon (Department of KEYWORDS: yoga, Tibet, lymphoma, sleep, distress.
Scientific Publications, The University of Texas
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX) for
her helpful editorial comments and Rachel Boone
for her assistance with data collection. They are
grateful to Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche for his
Y oga is an ancient Eastern tradition that usually includes regulated
breathing, moving through various postures, and meditation. I
Although different forms of yoga are practiced in many Eastern coun-
intellectual support and keeping this study true to tries, the yoga practiced in the West primarily comes from the Indian
the tradition in which these practices are imbed- tradition, specifically the form known as Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga
ded.
typically focuses on postures (asanas) and breathing exercises
Address for repnnts: Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., Depart- (pranayama). Less commonly practiced are the yogic practices from
ment of Behavioral Science, Unit 243, The University Tibet, which are known best for their meditative techniques. Now,
of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Hol- however, there is growing interest in the Tibetan physical yogas or
combe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030; Fax: (713) mind-body practices. For thousands of years, Tibetans have been
745-4286: E-mail: Icohen@mdanderson.org
employing what we call mind-body techniques today. Two Tibetan
Received September 18, 2003; revision received practices, known as Tsa lung (rtsa rlung, channels and vital breath)
February 24, 2004; accepted March 1, 2004. and Trul khor ('phrul 'khOl~ magical wheel [of the channels and vital

© 2004 American Cancer Society


DOl 10.1 002/cncr.20236
Published online 16 April 2004 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
2254 CANCER May 15, 2004 I Volume 100 I Number 10

breath]), originating from the Mother Tantra (Ma the end of the 7-week program, participants in the
rgyud)2 and the Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung intervention group were experiencing lower total
(Zhang zhung snyan rgyud),3.4 respectively, incorpo- mood disturbance and decreased overall distress com-
rate controlled breathing and visualization, mindful- pared with the experience in the control group.
ness techniques, and postures. Little is known about In the current study, we conducted a clinical trial
this form of yoga, however, and to our knowledge no of Tibetan yoga (Ty) in patients with lymphoma. We
research published to date has examined the benefits incorporated poses from the Tsa lung and Trul khor
of Tsa lung or Trul khor. We believe that this form of into a 7-week program that included controlled
yoga may be particularly useful for cancer patients breathing, visualization, and mindfulness. The tech-
who are undergoing and recovering from chemother- niques were low impact and easy to integrate into
apy, because the movements are gentle and simple, daily living and could be particularly useful for pa-
and there is an emphasis on controlled breathing, tients with cancer who were either receiving treatment
visualization, and mindfulness techniques. or had recently completed treatment. We hypothe-
There has been some research into the benefits of sized that patients assigned to the TY group would
Indian-based yoga in healthy populations and medical demonstrate better psychologic adjustment and lower
populations. Early texts described yoga's physical and levels of fatigue and sleep disturbances during the
mental health benefits, 1 whereas modern studies of weeks after the intervention compared with patients
yoga-based interventions performed in healthy popu- in a wait-list control group.
lations have shown that the interventions decrease
depression and anxiety,5-7 increase motor control,8,9 MATERIALS AND METHODS
improve subjective measures of well being,lO and im- Participants
prove lung functionY Patients with lymphoma who were either receiving
Although yoga has been used for centuries in the chemotherapy or had received it within the past 12
East to treat disease,12,13 it has gained recognition for months were recruited through the Lymphoma Center
this purpose only recently in the West. In particular, it at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer
has been found that yoga is useful for treating various Center. Patients had to be receiving eitl1er a regimen
forms of arthritis, 14 lessening the severity of musculo- with combined cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vin-
skeletal disease, 14,15 decreasing the frequency and se- cristine, and prednisone (CHOP) or regimens with the
verity of asthma attacks,16 improving peak expiratory same drug classes to control for the more severe side
flow rates in patients with bronchial asthma,17 and effects associated with certain regimens. Patients also
improving the lipid profile of patients with coronary had to be age 2:: 18 years and had to be able to read
artery disease 18 ; and one small study showed that yoga and speak English. Patients with any major psychotic
was useful for controlling aspects of hypertension, 19 illnesses were excluded. The proposed total sample
There is also some research suggesting that yoga may size for the study was 38 evaluable patients. Nineteen
be useful for decreasing the frequency and duration of patients per group provides 80% power to detect a
epileptic seizures, although the findings remain equiv- difference of 0.82 standard deviation units, which is
ocal. 20 viewed as a large effect size.
Although there has been interest in the therapeu-
tic application of yoga to patients with cancer, ~l few Procedures
studies actually have examined the benefits of yoga in Potential study participants were identified and either
this group. In an early study, 125 patients undergoing were approached in the clinic or were sent a letter
radiotherapy participated in group therapy, medita- about participating in the study. Patients who met the
tion, or yoga. 22 The patients in the yoga group found inclusion criteria and expressed an interest in the
that their quality of life was improved during radio- study were then scheduled for the baseline assess-
therapy and for some time immediately after the com- ment, at which time the study was explained, patients'
pletion of radiotherapy. In particular, the patients re- questions were answered, and written consent was
ported increased appetite, increased tolerance to obtained. The study was approved by the Institutional
radiotherapy, improved sleep, improved bowel habits, Review Board. The baseline assessment included a
and a feeling of peace and tranqUility, In a more recent battery of questionnaires. Patients were assigned to
trial, 109 patients with early-stage or late-stage cancer either the TY group or the wait-list control group once
were randomly assigned to either a 7-week interven- they had completed the baseline questionnaires.
tion, which included group support and discussion, Group assignment was conducted sequentially using
mindfulness meditation, visualization and imagery, minimization,24,25 a form of adaptive assignment that
and yoga stretches, or to a wait-list control group.23 At results in better group balance on selected patient
Tibetan Yoga in Patients with Lymphoma/Cohen et a!. 2255

characteristics compared with random assignment or nity to take part in the TY program after the 3-month
stratification,26 unbiased estimates oftreatment effect, follow-up assessment was completed.
and as good as or better power than stratified random-
ization. 26 -29 Patient characteristics used for group as- Measures
signment were the type of cancer (Hodgkin or non- Psychological adjustment was assessed across several
Hodgkin lymphoma), the status of treatment (active domains, including distress (Impact of Events Scale
treatment or completed), gender, age, and baseline [IES]) , anxiety (Speilberger State Anxiety Inventory
state anxiety scores. The allocation process was con- [STATED, and depression (Centers for Epidemiologic
cealed from all investigators because all the relevant Studies-Depression [CES- D]). Fatigue (Brief Fatigue
information was entered into a computer program Inventory [BFIJ) and sleep disturbances (Pittsburgh
and group assignment was determined by the pro- Sleep Quality Index [PSQI]) were assessed, because
gram. Patients were notified of their group assignment these are common problems for patients with cancer.
by telephone, and patients in the TY group were Because it is hypothesized that yoga has an affect on
scheduled for their first yoga session, which was held multiple outcomes and because, to some extent, this
approximately 1-3 weeks after the baseline assess- was a feasibility study, a primary outcome measure
ment. Three separate cohorts of patients were as- was not prespecified. Other measures assessing some
signed to one of the two groups. After completion of proposed mediators of the benefits of the yoga pro-
the TY program, participants completed the postint- gram were administered but are not reported on here.
ervention assessment questionnaires. The follow-up The IES is a I5-item, self-report scale that mea-
assessments were conducted 1 week, 1 month, and 3 sures 2 categories of cognitive responses to stressful
months after the last session. Patients in the wait-list events: Intrusion (7 items assessing intrusively expe-
control group completed these assessments at com- rienced ideas, images, feelings, or bad dreams) and
parable intervals. Avoidance (8 items assessing consciously recognized
avoidance of certain ideas, feelings, or situations).3o
Patients in the current study rated the frequency of
TY program.
intrusive thoughts and avoidance in relation to their
Participants in the TY group were asked to attend
cancer. Because the correlation between the Intrusion
seven weekly yoga sessions at The University of Texas
and Avoidance subscales at each time was modest
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in the Place ... of Well-
(correlation coefficient [rJ = 0.21-0.59), the total and
ness, a center for the clinical delivery of complemen-
subscale scores are given. Higher scores indicate more
tary programs. Each class was conducted by an expe-
intrusive thoughts and avoidance behaviors. In this
rienced TY instructor (A.C.R.). All of the practices
study, the baseline Cronbach a estimates were 0.87,
come from a tradition practiced for centuries by Ti-
0.85, and 0.78 for the total IES score and for the In-
betan monks and lay practitioners and employ imag-
trusion and Avoidance subscales, respectively.
ery and exercises that are not demanding physically.
The STATE is a 20-item scale that assesses an
The program was divided into four aspects: 1) con-
individual's current level of anxiety.31 Participants rate
trolled breathing and visualization, 2) mindfulness, 3)
the frequency of feelings or symptoms using a four-
postures from the Tsa lung, and 4) the preliminary set
point scale, with higher scores indicating higher levels
of postures from the Trul khor (sngon 'gro). The exer-
of anxiety. In this study, the baseline Cronbach a
cises are simple motions done with specific breathing
estimate for the STATE was 0.95.
patterns that are easy to perform by individuals un-
The CES-D is a well validated, 20-item, self-report
dergoing cancer treatment. Participants also were pro-
measure of depression that focuses on affective com-
vided with printed materials after each class that cov-
ponents of depression. 32 Respondents rate the fre-
ered a new area of the program. After the last class,
quency of the specified behavior or feeling using a
patients also were given an audiotape that walked
four-point, Likert-type scale. Higher scores indicate
them through all of the techniques. They were encour-
higher levels of depressive symptoms. In this study,
aged to practice the techniques at least once per day.
the baseline Cronbach a estimate for the CES-D was
Participants who missed a class were encouraged to
0.93.
attend a make-up class at another time.
The BFI is a nine-item questionnaire that was
designed to be used in the clinical setting to rapidly
Wait-list control group. assess fatigue severity. The items are ranked from 0 to
Participants in the wait-list control group did not have 10. Three questions ask patients to rate their fatigue at
any contact research personnel except during the fol- the moment and at its "worst" and "usual" over the
low-up assessments. They were offered the opportu- past 24 hours. Four items ask patients to rate how
2256 CANCER May 15, 2004 f Volume 100 f Number 10

much in the past 24 hours their fatigue has interfered acteristics used in the minimization-adaptive assign-
with their everyday life. In this study, the baseline ment procedure. 34 The presence of group by time
Cronbach a estimate for the BPI was 0.96. interactions also was assessed for each outcome mea-
The PSQI is an IS-item, self-rated questionnaire sure; however, no statistically significant interactions
that assesses quality of sleep and sleep disturbances were obtained (all group-by-time interaction P values
over 1 month. 33 A total score is derived as well as seven were > 0.05). Thus, the results are reported for the
subscales that include Subjective Sleep Quality (1 models with main-effect terms, and the group effect
item), Sleep Latency (2 items), Sleep Duration (1 item), represents the average intervention effect across all
Habitual Sleep Efficiency (ratio of 2 items), Sleep Dis- follow-up time points adjusted for covariates. Corre-
turbances (9 items), Use of Sleeping Medications (1 lations among observations from the same individual
item), and Daytime Dysfunction (2 items). Scores ~ 5 were modeled using a first-order, autoregressive form
on the PSQI total scale, computed as a sum of the 7 across the follow-up assessments; inspection of Akaike
subscales, are associated with clinically significant Information Criteria (AIC) , Small-Sample (AICC), and
sleep disruptions, including insomnia and major Bayesian Information Criteria (BIC) values were used
mood disorders. 33 In this study, the baseline Cronbach to select the optimal within-subject correlation struc-
a estimate was 0.S4 for the total scale, 0.79 for the ture to be used across th.e set of outcome measures.
9-item Sleep Disturbance subscale, and 0.77 for the The implementation of mixed-model regression anal-
2-item Sleep Latency scale, for which the interitem ysis in SAS S.02 of restricted maximum-likelihood es-
correlation was 0.70. There was no correlation (r timation with profile residual variances was used; tests
= 0.00) between the 2 items on the baseline Daytime of model fixed-effects parameters were conducted us-
Dysfunction sub scale (trouble staying awake, trouble ing the Prasad-Rao-Jeske-Kackar-Harville method for
keeping enthusiasm). obtaining fixed-effects standard errors, and the Ken-
Participants in the TY group also were asked ward-Roger approach was used to calculate degrees of
about their satisfaction with the program, the per- freedom; this approach has been shown to yield good
ceived degree of benefit, and their frequency of prac- performance characteristics under small sample con-
tice outside the class for each of the four areas of ditions in longitudinal analyses. 35 .36
practice (breathing and visualization, mindfulness,
Tsa lung, and TruI khor). Participants were asked to RESULTS
indicate whether they felt any benefit from the prac- Twenty patients were randomized to the TY group, and
tice on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 - "no, definitely not 19 patients were randomized to the wait-list control
beneficial"; 2 - "no, not really beneficial"; 3 - "not sure group. One participant in the TY group dropped out of
if beneficial"; 4 - "yes, a little beneficial"; 5 - "yes, the study before attending any classes, making the num-
definitely beneficial"; they also could indicate "does ber of patients in that group 19; therefore, we did not
not apply, I did not practice") and how often in the collect any follow-up data for this patient. There were no
past week they had practiced on a scale from 1 to 6 (1 statistically significant differences between the groups
- not at all; 2 - once; 3 - twice; 4 - more than twice, but with respect to any medical or demographic character-
not every day; 5 - every day; 6 - more than once a day). istics or the baseline dependent measures (for descrip-
At baseline, aU patients were asked whether they tive statistics on measures of adjustment and sleep qual-
had ever practiced yoga. At each time point, patients ity, see Table 1). In both groups, the average patient age
also indicated whether they had engaged in any par- was 51 years, 12 patients were female, 7 patients had
ticuIar techniques to manage their stress (other than Hodgkin lymphoma, and 15 patients were not actively
TY for the patients in the TY group). receiving treatment for their cancer. There also was an
even distribution across disease stages between the
Data analyses groups (TY group: Stage I, 22%; Stage II, 39%; Stage III,
Descriptive analyses were conducted to characterize 17%; Stage W, 22%; control group: Stage I, 22%; Stage II,
the study participants and the feasibility of conducting 33%; Stage III, 12%; Stage IV, 33% Ann Arbor Criteria). A
a TY trial in patients with lymphoma. Analyses of the chart review indicated that 10 patients in the TY group
impact of the TY intervention relative to a wait-list and 11 patients in the control group were not taking any
control group were conducted on follow-up IES, state medications. Medications that patients were taking in-
anxiety, depression symptomology, fatigue, and sleep cluded antidepressants (TY group, 2 patients; controI
disturbance scores using mixed-model regression group, 2 patients), supplements (TY group, 2 patients;
analyses by regressing follow-up assessments on control group, 3 patients), thyroid medication (TY group,
group, time of follow-up assessment, and the corre- 2 patients; control group, 3 patients), hOlTIlOne therapy
sponding baseline measure as well as the patient char- (TY group, 1 patient; control group, 2 patients), neupo-
Tibetan Yoga in Patients with Lymphoma/Cohen et al. 2257

TABLE 1
Baseline and Follow-Up Adjustment and Sleep Quality Scores by Intervention Groupa

Wait-list control group


Yoga group (mean;: SD) (mean;: SD)

Measure Baseline Follow-up Baseline Follow·up Pvalue 95% Cl

Impact of Events Scale


Total score 21.5 ± 14.8 10.2 :': 8.2 18.7:': 11.1 10.5 ± 8.5 0.92 -5.4 to 4.9
Intrusive thoughts 9.0 =6.7 3.7 :!: 4.4 9.1:,: 6.6 4.2 ± 4.6 0.77 -3.2 to 2.4
Avoidance 13.1 ! 9.2 6.1 ± 6.0 10.6:': 6.6 6.1 ± 6.0 0.99 -3.8 to 3.7
State Anxiety 34.3 ~ 12.3 34.1 :': 8.4 37.8 ± 14.6 33.8 ~ 8.5 0.90 -5.0 to 5.7
Depression (eES·D) 10.2:,: 11.0 9.0 ± 4.2 9.6:': 8.57 9.7 ± 3.8 0.56 -3.3 to 1.9
En 3.1 ± 2.4 3.1 =1.5 2.8:': 2.2 3.1 :': 1.5 0.93 -0.99 to 0.9
Sleep disturbance lPSQI)
Total score 6.5 =5.0 5.8 =2.3 7.2 ± 4.7 8.1 =2.4 0.004 -3.8 to -0.8
Sleep quality 0.90 ± 0.85 0.81 :': 0.52 1.11 ± 0.94 1.22 ± 0.56 0.02 -0.7 to -0.08
Sleep latency 1.10 ± 0.97 0.i5 :': 0.68 1.05:': 0.91 133 ± 0.71 0.01 -1.0 to -0.1
Sleep duration 0.85 ± 1.09 0.89 =0.64 1.32 ± 1.29 1.35 :': 0.64 0.03 -0.9 to -0.04
Sleep efficiency 0.65 :': 1.09 0.87 =0.68 0.84 =1.07 0.95 =0.67 0.72 -0.5 to 0.4
Sleep disturbances 1.40 ± 0.68 1.23 ± 0.40 1.37 ± 0.76 1.33 :': 0.37 0.47 -0.3 to 0.16
Sleeping medications 0.80 :': 1.28 0.48 :': 0.88 0.58 ± 1.07 1.21 ± 0.93 0.02 -\.3 to -0.2
Daytime dysfunction 0.80 :': 0.62 0.96 ± 0.60 0.95 ± 0.71 0.93 =0.64 0.89 -0.4 to 0.4

SD: srandard deviation: 93% CI: 95% confidence interval; CES·D: Centers for Epidemiologic Studies·Depression; BFl: Brief Fatigue Inventory; PSQI: Pittsburgh Sleep Qualiry Index.
, Pvalues and 95% confidence intervals are in relation to the group compansons for the follow·up dara. NOle rhat follow· up adjustment scores represent leasr·squares means adjusred for rhe baseline value of the
outcome measure and stare anxiety, age, gender. treatment starus, and the ~lle of cancer (Hodgkin or non-Hodgkull)mphoma) using tlle final, mixed· model regression modeil In = Hi patients in rhe yoga group;
n = and 14 patients in the control group).

gen/procrit (TY group, 2 patients; control group, 1 pa- All 19 TY participants attended at least 1 yoga
tient), hypertension medication (TY group, 2 patients; session. Six participants (32%) attended all 7 sessions
control group, 1 patient), steroids (TY group, 2 patients), through attendance at either the primary session or
antiemetic medication (TY group, 1 patient), diabetes through a make-up class; 5 participants (26%) at-
medication (TY group, 2 patients; control group, 1 pa- tended 5 or 6 sessions; 6 participants (32%) attended 2
tient), cholesterol medication (TY group, 2 patients), an- or 3 sessions; and 2 participants (lO%) attended only 1
tiseizure medication (control group, 1 patient), and an- session. Patients missed classes for the following rea-
tibiotics (control group, 2 patients). sons: they were out of town, they had conflicts with
Three patients in each group also indicated that their work schedule, they had a cancer treatment-
they had practiced yoga in the past; however, none related reason, they were too busy, they had transpor-
were practicing yoga currently. Nine patients in the TY tation problems, or they had a health problem (not
group and 14 patients in the control group indicated cancer-related). Sixteen of 19 patients (84%) in the TY
that they did something to manage their stress before group and 14 of 19 patients (74%) in the control group
the start of the study, including exercise (TY group, 4 completed at least 1 of the 3 follow-up assessments,
patients; control group, 8 patients), meditation (TY with an average of 2.0 (standard deviation [SD]' 0.82)
group, 1 patient), breathing exercises (TY group, 1 and 2.4 (SD, 0.65) assessments completed in the TY
patient; control group, 2 patients) relaxation tapes group and the control group, respectively (P = 0.13).
(control group, 1 patient), and hobbies (TY group, 3 There were no significant demographic, medical, or
patients; control group, 3 patients). Eight patients in psychosocial differences between the 9 patients who
the TY group and nine patients in the control group did not complete any follow-up assessments and the
indicated that they used some technique(s) to manage 30 patients who did complete the assessments.
their stress at some time during the follow-up period, In their evaluations, participants indicated that
including exercise (TY group, 7 patients; control they found the TY program beneficial. In fact, none of
group, 7 patients), meditation (TY group, 1 patient; the participants had responses of 0 ("does not apply, I
control group, 1 patient), breathing exercises (control did not practice") or 1 ("no, definitely not beneficial")
group, 2 patients), support group (control group, 1 for any of the 4 aspects. Pooling across the postinter-
patient), and hobbies (TY group, 3 patients; control venti on assessments, the modal response for each of
group, 2 patients). the 4 aspects was 5 ("yes, definitely beneficial"); 73%,
2258 CANCER May 15, 2004 I Volume 100 I Number 10

TABLE 2 during follow-up, the TY group had significantly better


Perceived Benefit and Practice Rates for Breathing and Visualization, overall sleep quality and that they perceived better
Mindfulness, Tsa Lung, and Trul Khor sleep quality, fell asleep more quickly, slept longer,
Benefit' Practice b and used fewer sleep medications compared with pa-
tients in the control group (see Table 1). There were no
Exercise Mean Median Mean Median statistically significant differences between the groups
in terms of the Intrusion or Avoidance scores, state
Breathing and visualization 4,7 5,0 3,5 3,8
anxiety, depression, or fatigue scores.
Mindfulness 4,5 4,7 3, I 3.3
Tsa hmg 4,5 4.7 2,9 3,0
Trul khor 4,6 5,0 2,8 2,9 DISCUSSION
The feasibility of conducting the seven-session TY pro-
Tsa lung irtsa rluntl: channels and lital breath; Trul khor (r'nul khorj: magical wheel of the channels gram in patients with lymphoma was demonstrated
and lital breath,
clearly. In particular, although> 20% of patients were
, Benefit: I . no, defmitely not beneficial; 2 . no, not really beneficial; 3 . not sure if beneficial: 4 . )~s,
a little beneficial; 5 . yes, definitely beneficiaL undergoing chemotherapy, the majority of patients at-
b Practice: I . not at all: 2 . once: 3 . tIIiee: 4· more than n,ice, but not every day: J . eveIY day: 6 . more tended> 50% of sessions. Patients also indicated that
than once daily, they found the program useful, and > 80% said they
practiced some aspect of the program at least once per
week during the 3-month follow-up. Most importantly,
64%, 64%, and 82% of respondents indicated 5 ("yes, there was some indication that the TY program reduced
definitely beneficial") to breathing and visualization, patients' sleep disturbances. In particular, patients in the
mindfulness, Tsa lung, and Trul khor, respectively. TY group reported significantly better overall sleep qual-
The mean and median responses were between 4 ity and subjective sleep quality, faster sleep latency,
("yes, a little beneficial") and 5 ("yes, definitely bene- longer sleep duration, and less use of sleep medications
ficial") (see Table 2). Similarly, pooling across inter- during the follow-up compared with patients in the con-
vention and postintervention periods, the participants trol group. However, there were no statistically signifi-
indicated a fair amount of practice in each of the four cant group differences for the measures of psychological
aspects, averaging two times per week (see Table 2). adjustment or fatigue.
The modal response regarding average weekly prac- To our knowledge this is the first study to examine
tice of breathing and visualization, Tsa lung, and Trul TY in any population and one of the few studies to
khor was 4 ("more than twice, but not every day"), examine the effects of yoga in a cancer population. In
with that level of specific practice reported by 39%, other studies tl1at have examined the benefits of includ-
31 %, and 29% of participants, respectively; the second ing yoga, yoga constituted only one aspect of the inter-
most common level of practice reported was 3 ("twice vention. For example, Speca et al. 23 designed an inter-
a week"; breathing and visualization, 28%; Tsa lung, vention that included group support and discussion,
27%; Trul khor, 21%). For weekly practice of mindful- mindfulness meditation, visualization and imagery, and
ness, 31 % of participants averaged practicing "more yoga stretches. Although they found that the participants
than twice, but not every day," and the same percent- in the intervention group experienced lower total mood
age averaged "twice a week." disturbance and decreased overall distress, it is not clear
Table 1 shows the overall follow-up results on whether the benefits were due to tl1e yoga per se. It is
psychologic adjustment, fatigue, and sleep distur- noteworthy that the form of yoga we used in the current
bances by intervention group. The values are least- study was presented and taught in its traditional format,
squares means that have been adjusted for the base- which includes a number of components (e.g., breathing
line value of the outcome measure and the and visualization, mindfulness, Tsa lung, and Trul khor).
minimization adaptive allocation factors (Le., state However, although the TY program that we designed
anxiety, age, gender, status of treatment, and type of appeared to be useful for this population, we cannot tell
cancer IHodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma]), as well which particular aspects of the program were more or
as time of follow-up assessment, which was not a less useful for the partiCipants.
statistically significant effect in any of the models. The There are several possible explanations for why we
mixed-model regression analyses revealed a statisti- did not find an effect of TY on the measures of psycho-
cally significant adjusted group effect for the PSQI logical adjustment (intrusion or avoidance, state anxiety,
total score (P < 0.004) and for 4 of the subscales, and depression) and fatigue. First, the TY program truly
including Subjective Sleep Quality (P < 0.02), Sleep may not affect these outcomes for this population. Al-
Latency (P < 0.01), Sleep Duration (P < 0.03), and Use ternatively, the lack of effect also may reflect low sensi-
of Sleep Medications (P < 0.02). This suggests that, tivity of the measures. For example, because both the
Tibetan Yoga in Patients with Lymphoma/Cohen et al. 2259

CES-D and the STATE are ofter used as clinical screening strom et al:!O found that the most common sleep
measures of mental health (for depression and anxiety, problems were awakening during the night and difficulty
respectively), these instruments may not detect only falling back to sleep as well as not sleeping enough, Of
subtle changes in mental health in a non mental health particular concern is the possibility that there may be
population. Less clinically oriented measures, such as profound consequences of disturbed sleep for cancer
the Profile of Mood States37 used by Spica et al.,23 might patients, because sleep may mediate both psychologic
have detected group clifferences in our population. health and physical health.:-l8,41.42 In fact, sleep distur-
Along these same lines, there also might have been a bances have been associated with worse quality of life in
floor effect for some of these measures, because the cancer patients, including increased depression and
scores were quite low at baseline and follow-up. In ad- higher pain levels,40.43 and with depression in noncancer
dition, most patients were off treatment at the start of patients. 42 Persistent sleep disturbances also may in-
the study (15 patients in each group), which may have crease a cancer patient's risk for mood disorders, altered
contributed further to a floor effect. It is important to metabolic and endocrine function, and compromised
note that the study also may have been underpowered to immune flmctioning.~8,41.43.44lt is noteworthy that sleep
detect differences for these outcomes when the effect disruptions have been associated with adverse physical
size may have been smaller than the effect of the TY health outcomes, including increased morbidity and
program on the measure of sleep disturbances. mortality:I5-47 Potential changes in metabolic, endo-
There are several limitations to the current study, crine, and immune function may have particularly im-
most significantly, the small sample size of just 30 pa- portant health consequences for patients vvith hemato-
tients for whom we had follow-up data on any of the logic malignancies.
selected outcome measures; however, as recent studies Although research into the efficacy and mecha-
have shown, this level of sample size can yield adequate nisms of yoga is in its beginning stages, the findings
Type I error control and power.35,:~H Nonetheless, tlus is reported to date are supportive 13 and, along with our
one of tile only studies examining the benefits of yoga in finding of improved sleep, suggest that the health
a cancer population, and 14-15 patients per group pro- effects of yoga in cancer patients should be explored
vides 80% power to detect a population effect size of 1.1 further. The benefits that have been documented and
and 50'Vo power to detect a population effect size of 0.7, the potential impact of th.ese benefits on the psycho-
with sample effect sizes 2: 0.7 acIueving statistical signif- logic and physical sequelae of cancer are important
icance, It is also important to note that we had several enough to warrant the further study of developing
outcome measures of interest in this trial, However, de- such programs for cancer patients.
spite the examination of multiple outcomes, the strength
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